Constitution under pressure…

cszzcadxgaawy5p20160917_091931August was a busy month writing, whereas September has seen a shift from writing to speaking.  On 14 September, I was part of a panel (pictured right) at the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law seminar on ‘Taking “Brexit” Seriously: A Dialogue’ at King’s College London.  I focused on Parliament and Brexit.

It was then a case of heading to Scotland to speak on 17 September at a Forum for British and Irish Political Thought colloquium on ‘The Present Crisis: Origins and Outcomes’ at St Andrew’s University.  (The picture, left, shows me in windswept St Andrews.)  My paper was titled ‘The Union and devolution: diversity and incoherence’.

I then moved from Scotland to Belgium in order to speak on 20 September at a PADEMIA: Parliamentary Democracy in Europe Workshop on ‘The Impact of Referenda on Parliamentary Democracy’ (yes, I did explain why referendums is to be preferred to referenda), focusing on the consequences for Parliament of the outcome of the June referendum.

In the talks, I was able to draw on recent reports produced by House of Lords committees, not least the Constitution Committee.  In looking at the Union and devolution I drew, not surprisingly, on the Committee’s report on The Union and DevolutionOn addressing Parliament and Brexit, I called attention to our most recent report, The Invoking of Article 50It is a short, but in my view an important analysis of the role Parliament should play.  I was able also to draw on the European Union Committee reports on The process of withdrawing from the European Union and Scrutinising Brexit: The role of Parliament

The reports provide valuable contributions to discussion on not only Brexit, but also the need to look more conceptually at our constitutional arrangements.  They also demonstrate the value of the House of Lords in addressing such issues.  The existence of the Constitution and EU Committees means that we already have in place some institutional means for identifying what should be done in rather volatile and uncertain times for our constitution.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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11 Responses to Constitution under pressure…

  1. William MacDougall says:

    The Lords report on Article 50 that you cite is very interesting. I particular I see that it is uncertain as to whether or not the decision to leave once invoked can be unilaterally revoked, saying it would ultimately be up to the European Court of Justice. I assume you agree with that view that it’s uncertain?

    • Croft says:

      I think the report dodges the Art 50 issue when it should have an opinion – Sj doesn’t apply.

      On your point actually its reasonably clear or at least it would be in UK law or frankly law generally elsewhere. But the ECJ has always been a very political court and its verdicts often reflect that.

  2. tizres says:

    Further to William MacDougall’s comment above, an intriguing argument was put forward in the EU Law Analysis blog, entitled ‘Is Article 50 TEU Valid?’ * (SPOILERS: yes). The post and the entire site leaves one with a sense of despair for the future. It seems an age ago** since listening to the Ambassador of Ireland to GB engage the Lords European Union Committee.

    ** 6 Sept 2016

    • Croft says:

      “The post and the entire site leaves one with a sense of despair for the future.”

      I can see what you mean having read it.

  3. Croft says:

    Having just reread the Invoking 50 report i’m bound to say it seems slightly naive or wrecking in its argument.

    Parliament – and most particularly the Lords has a majority against the ref result. While it looks like the Gov has a commons majority (just about) for A50 the Lords in particular looks – baring some act of god – likely to vote down any proposal to implement the result. So warm words about involving parliament and getting approval – at as many stages as possible – seems at best to create circumstances for as many occasions as possible for the process to hit deadlock.

    The report ducks the holy mess and constitutional crisis that will result from the Lords blocking brexit. Its argument amounts to sticking your arm into the Lions cage at the zoo but seems unprepared to accept or address the consequences of its logic. Given the views of some members on the ref one has to draw an conclusions.

    • maude elwes says:

      Why are MP’s who want out of that farce they got us into not starting an open revolt against the leaders of their party? To reject the voters decision goes directly against democracy, not to mention the waste of public money on a game of deluding the electorate.

      We watched the Labour conference yesterday and heard McDonald admit being free of Europe, or, as a result of the Brexit decision, at last we can make our own laws.

      Time we had a giant of this links ilk, rise up and start chopping immediately. I think you grossly underestimate the public in this matter.

      Any man with the slightest knowledge of parliament knew from the minute May was selected to lead, we had a weak and worthless government in power.

  4. maude elwes says:

    I found this link as I surfed the net this morning, which is a gem. And this came from the far left!

  5. tizres says:

    Yesterday, the PM said that the forthcoming Repeal Act will enable the necessary legislation to take the UK out of the EU and will leave the effects of the past 40 years of EU legislation intact until a UK gvt chooses to repeal or amend (my summary: I’m happy for alternatives). The first question that springs to mind is whether the Repeal Act’s provisions will leave the EU legislation intact from the triggering of Article 50, or at the enactment of the Repeal Act. A lot can happen, but I’m sure that the PM is well aware of that…

    • Lord Norton says:

      The intention is that the provisions of the Repeal Act will only take effect at the point we cease to be a member of the EU – this would be stipulated in the measure. The key question about the Bill is what mechanism will be stipulated for giving effect to the removal of those EU laws to be repealed.

  6. nnaatnif says:

    Really interesting!

  7. maude elwes says:

    I read this comment today and wonder if the UK Parliament knows this is the real situation, why all the pretence? And why are they wasting our money on ludicrous court cases setting about making the democracy we have bogus.

    If a court finds against the British electorate on their referendum choice, who voted them into office and gave them that power? I know I didn’t get that option.

    This was in the Daily Express.


    Peter Brown

    When are all the ‘Remainer’ politicians going to answer the charge that the EU is one giant Ponzi scheme? Quite apart from the fact that the EU Audit has not been reconciled for 21 years, the whole Eurozone has been help up by creative accounting.

    The whole edifice has been kept running by the German Bundesbank, in other words, the German taxpayer in a system called TARGET2 for operating import/export operations within EU Countries

    Under the TARGET2 system, the exporter is paid but not by the importing country but Germany’s central bank, i.e. the German public at large, which never receives payment from the importing country but a mere credit note from the importing country’s central bank. As of July 2016 the Bundesbank’s TARGET2 balance stood at over €660bn. That sum is the total debt owed by other eurozone central banks to the Bundesbank, which is unlikely ever to be repaid.

    The only way that Germany has been able to sustain its relatively well off economy is from its ‘real’ trade in overseas exports. 52% of the German GDP is from its exports of which, 7.5% of its surplus is with Britain. 8 other Eurozone countries have a trade surplus with Britain in excess of 5%.

    There are important questions that the Remainers have to answer but never do: The EU is unlikely to be able to weather another financial crisis as both the major German and Italian Banks are so indebted that they are hemorrhaging investors to the point where they are starting to appear unviable. At some point, the Bundesbank is going to be unable to continue carrying EU debt. Why do the politicians continue with the myth that Britain is going to be ‘punished’ when to do so runs the very grave risk of German and the other 8 economies that have large surpluses with Britain having their economies likely to fail or drastically devalued?

    There can only be two real reasons why British politicians persist in their support for the EU. One is that they have allowed themselves to be so brain washed with the idea that Britain cannot flourish outside the EU, or: they have a personal, vested economic reason for wishing to stay in. Possibly, a combination of the two.

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