‘Brexit means Brexit’
Friday 15th July: Whatever the view of the opponents of Brexit, the referendum vote must mean what it said. As Robert Tombs explains, the people, not parliament, the Crown, or the courts are the true sovereign, the ultimate source of authority.
This plain statement by our new prime minister would appear to settle the matter. But there are some -- including prominent and influential voices -- who cast doubt at least on the substance and even on the form. The argument is that parliament or the law courts should if not overrule or rerun (though some have argued even that) at least circumscribe or delay the verdict of the referendum. The implication is that a referendum is somehow illegitimate or at least inferior as an expression of political choice, and that it is contrary to our long constitutional history that has made parliament sovereign. Hence, a sovereign parliament should make the final decision as to whether Brexit doesin fact mean Brexit.
'Neither Compelling, nor Attractive'
Friday 8th July: As the advice to invade Iraq comes under the spotlight with Sir John Chilcot's report, Professor Peter Crisp assesses the evidence on the legality of the decision:
Chapter 5 of Sir John Chilcot’s caustic report on the Iraq Inquiry analyses and discusses the legal basis for the Iraq war. The chapter gives extraordinary and unprecedented insight into the legal process which led to the decision to invade Iraq as well as a remarkably detailed account of how the then Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, came to change his mind on the legality of a possible conflict and, in his words, to give the “green light” to the invasion.
In an example of English understatement at its most lethal, Chilcot in his 6 July statement writes:
“…the Inquiry has not expressed a view on whether military action was legal. That could, of course, only be resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised Court. We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.”
Allies of a Kind?
Britain's Departure from the EU spells uncertainty for the Franco-German Axis
Friday 1st July: As EU member states respond to Britain's decision to leave the EU, Professor John Keiger assesses the response in France and its implications.
The French have a lot on their plate at present. But that has not stopped their knee-jerk reaction to the triumph of the ‘Leave’ campaigners in Britain’s referendum result of 23 June. Despite the on-going state of emergency following two large terrorist attacks in the course of this year, the informal opening of campaigning for presidential and legislative elections in April-May 2017, the divisions in the ruling socialist majority and the main centre-right opposition republican party about the choice of candidate for the presidentials, widespread trade union and popular opposition to a government bill to liberalise workplace laws, national strikes, violent popular demonstrations, the rise and rise of the Front Nationaland Marine Le Pen, a President at twelve per cent in the latest opinion polls, an economy in the doldrums, not to mention a rowdy Euro football tournament to organise, France has managed to froth volumes at Britain’s likely departure from the EU. But what is most important is what has not been said thus far.
As the country joins her family in mourning the tragic killing of one of our most likeable and promising Parliamentarians, the proper suspension of the debate upon European Union membership has given all an opportunity to reflect upon the quality and conduct of the argument on one of the great issues of our time.
When polling eventually takes place on Brexit on June 23rd, most people will be relieved that important issues for the country have been exhaustively considered, though concerned that on some occasions the rules of civilised democratic behaviour and debate forgotten. Like me, some will feel saddened that John Major, in whose administration I served, recently marred his reputation, by resorting to personalised, even vindictive attacks on the Vote Leave Team, in a way out of keeping with his stewardship of Britain's highest office.
As we return our focus to the final week of the Brexit debate, I pose three questions.
First, is the European Union now or in the future, compatible with how we do things in Britain? In two crucial ways, it plainly isn’t.