Matthew JAMISON | 06.11.2016
With the shock High Court Ruling on Thursday November 3rd that the British Government of Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without the consent and hence a vote in both the elected House of Commons and the unelected House of Lords, the Great British Brexit Farce has taken an even more surreal turn than I ever could have imagined. At this rate, the British people, the rest of Europe and the world are never going to hear the end of that truly ghastly non-word Brexit.
How typical of the British, they cannot even organise an efficient and orderly exit which they themselves voted for. Even Nigel Farage, the arch English nationalist and scourge of all things EU, has conceded with untypical understatement: «We (the UK) are in a bit of a pickle». Quite. Never mind the damage this has done to the pound sterling. The UK’s international reputation as a serious, grown up, rational player is taking tremendous hits day after day. Perhaps this is what Mrs. May wanted with regards to the High Court Ruling. There was no reason why Article 50 could not have been triggered immediately after the referendum result became clear on June 24th or the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.
There is nothing to prepare for with regards to triggering Article 50. Article 50 is merely a notification, which begins the process of exiting. Until Article 50 is triggered there can be no negotiation with regards to the formal process of the UK exiting the EU. Triggering Article 50 is merely the formal inter-governmental mechanism for registering that the UK intends to leave the EU and with it would like to enter into the two-year negotiation process. Until Article 50 is triggered the UK remains a part of the EU and a full member, with all the rights, privileges and obligations that membership entails.
By dragging her kitten heels and acting in a manner even more inefficient than London Underground Mrs May and her colleagues have created the vacuum into which other forces have rushed to fill, such as international investment manager Gina Miller and the Justices of the Royal Courts of Justice. It is difficult to envisage just how Britain gets itself out of this self-induced mess particularly now that the triggering of Article 50 will have to wind its way through the laborious and archaic parliamentary procedures of the House of Commons and House of Lords.
The timetable for triggering Article 50, originally set by May for March 2017, now looks ambitious at best. There is no parliamentary majority in the UK Parliament for exiting the EU and Mrs. May’s governing Conservative Party only has a working majority of 12 based on a paltry 36.9% share of the vote at the 2015 General Election. And what delicious irony that the whole process may be derailed not by the so-called unelected EU bureaucrats but by the unelected British House of Lords.
The Lords are accountable and beholden to no one. Their Lordships will not have to concern themselves with angering any electors as they do not represent any electors and represent the worst aspects of the British political system: cronyism, hereditary nepotism and the continuation of the English class system. Time after time the House of Commons has proved incapable of reforming the woefully outdated, chronically corrupt and reactionary House of Lords.
If the British political elite cannot even reform their own domestic political system, little confidence is engendered that they will be able to reform their tortured relationship with the European Union. Amendment after amendment may be tabled in the House of Commons by Remain MPs while the Lords could vote the whole Act of triggering Article 50 down thus exercising their delaying powers which would create constitutional gridlock and require the Government to ram through any Act using the 1911 Parliament Act. The British people are about to be reminded just how inadequate and poorly designed their political institutions and unwritten constitution is and how unfit for purpose in the 21st century their political and legislative system is.
For all the inaccurate and deeply offensive criticism levelled at the workings of EU institutions during the referendum by Johnson, Gove and co, it will be the internal contradictions of the British unwritten constitution and Parliament that could very well stop Brexit in its tracks or drag out the whole sordid process forever and a day. Jean-Claude Juncker must be laughing into his gin & tonic. You can always rely on the British to be so unreliable. Where does this leave matters? If the UK Government had triggered Article 50 in the immediate aftermath of the June result, instead of faffing around in typical sclerotic Whitehall fashion, they would not be in the mess they now find themselves. It was either calculated inefficiency designed to kick Brexit into the long grass in the hope it would never happen or it was just typical English unproductive laziness and incompetence.
After all, the UK does not enjoy the dubious accolade of the lowest productivity rate out of the major G7 economies for nothing. The work ethic of most English people is one of the worst I have ever come across out of all the different nationalities and cultures I have had the pleasure of doing business with and working with. There is a very good reason why the country has become so dependent on EU and international workers, because they do the jobs far better with greater efficiency and diligence and a far better attitude than most English people.
That is the simple truth of the matter. But of course, sometimes the truth is too hard to bear for some people so they need escape goats for their own deficiencies and inadequacies. After all, when someone has to spell out how Great they are, you can bet your bottom dollar they are anything but Great. This rings true when you look at countries official titles. What country has to insert in its title the word Great? The only country in the world as far as I can tell that has done so is «Great» Britain.
The next hilarious act in this Great British Brexit Farce will be the May Government’s appeal to the UK Supreme Court, which despite its title, is not in actuality technically supreme, again with delicious irony since the Government is now battling this issue of Brexit out in the courts, it is the European Court of Justice which is the ultimate arbiter of many legal issues in the UK since the 1972 European Communities Act gave EU law primacy over domestic British law. Instead of wasting time in the courts Mrs May should have and still could simply repeal the 1972 European Communities Act.
I wanted the UK to stay in the EU and I treasure my EU citizenship far more than my British citizenship. Being European and a citizen of the EU means far more to me than being British (whatever Britishness is) and the survival of the European Union is of far greater geopolitical global strategic significance than whether or not the so-called United Kingdom continues to hang together. However, now that the decision has been taken by the British people to leave, leave they should, and I think this will be best for both the EU and the UK.
The EU will be able to concentrate on moving forward with the European project without having to constantly appease the perpetually grumpy and arrogant Brits while the UK will finally learn a lesson it really needs to be taught: that it is but a tiny drop in the ocean and should finally adjust to that reality rather than clinging to delusions of grandeur that it is still some Empire able to lord it over countries. Because the UK came out on the winning side in the Second World War thanks entirely to the United States and USSR and due to its deluded and rather mythical so-called «special relationship» with the USA and the legacy of that monstrous creation known as the British Empire, it has never had to face up to the fact that it is a medium sized power with a mediocre economy and limited national assets. Perhaps finally Brexit will disabuse the UK of whatever pretensions it has left in 2016.