Monday, 17 October 2016

The Article 50 court case doesn't matter

You'll notice I have been somewhat quiet about the legal challenge over the power to invoke Article 50. Likely it will not succeed since parliament has already given assent to it by way of passing the referendum bill. Invoking Article 50 is a necessary consequence of the result. It would be unusual for the courts to trespass in such a way.

The question though is whether it is important. It isn't. If the government loses then Article 50 must be put to a vote. Parliament cannot dictate the terms of the negotiation because the government cannot either. Otherwise it isn't a negotiation. All the government can do is make certain vague assurances which is no different to what it is doing now.

Parliament could vote to block Article 50 but that then puts them in a real pickle. All they succeed in doing is putting the game into a limbo state to drag the proceedings out. They cannot block indefinitely. The entire process would be a complete waste of time.

Curiously though, it would give the government more time to plan, which certainly wouldn't hurt - and it would be all the more amusing as parliament would have to carry the can for the delay. If at that point parliament gets any ideas about blocking Article 50 indefinitely then they open up a can of worms they will really regret. It would take a general election to sort it out and blockers would not come off well.

That then makes the next general election a re-run of the referendum, creating all kinds of political turmoil. The worst case scenario is that by an accident of numbers the government loses the next general election (an outside chance at best) in which case it will the there for all to see that parliament is determined to go against the verdict of the people whenever they are consulted directly.

That would be an outright declaration of war and an invitation for politics to become more toxic than it has been for more than a century. And that is why I really don't care either way. Toxified politics is a very fertile ground for new ideas and a new movement to displace our odious establishment. An insult like this would not be soon forgotten.

The fact is, they can put Brexit on ice for a while, but the Brexit wheels are now in motion and never again will we be treated as a committed member of the EU. Brexit is part of a the lexicon and is only really a question of when, not if. In this I am just as happy to play the long game. MPs will have made democracy central to the political conversation. That's a fight they cannot win.

In the end I think MPs have already done the math on this. They want a say of some sort (and they will get one) but there is no way they can bind the negotiators. If they move to block Article 50 then at best they are wasting time and at worst creating a constitutional crisis which would damage the economy (and politics in general) more than Brexit ever could. A mess of their own making.

For those who see the EU as only part of the problem there is actually a tactical advantage in delaying Brexit. As much as the EU is a problem for the UK it is also our malign and incompetent establishment. Ukip through its own ineptitude failed to topple it or provide the intellectual foundation for a more far reaching revolution. If I have to wait a little longer to be rid of the whole sorry lot of them as well as the EU, then I can be patient. Blocking Brexit would be signing their own death warrants. Figuratively speaking of course. 

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