Teresa May’s Approach to the Office of Prime Minister and Brexit
Mrs May was interviewed for the Women of the Year issue of the Financial Times Magazine : “Theresa May on decision-making, Brexit and doing the job her way“.
Amid the usual guff, there was this insight: “May wants to hold information and power tight. “She gives her confidence to people very, very sparingly,” says one former colleague. The criticism runs that while May might seek opinions from ministers and officials at an early stage, ultimately decisions are taken by her and her inner court.”
From the moment she returned from the Palace as Prime Minister, Mrs May has spoken and acted with what appears to be an utter determination to take the UK out of the European Union. Many think that is a very dangerous idea. It is worth remembering that in the Referendum, the Leave Vote was 51.9% as opposed to the Remain Vote at 48.1%. Hardly a ringing national endorsement for May’s fatuous slogan: “Brexit means Brexit“.
Nobody yet knows with any certainty precisely how she proposes to do this, but at the moment it seems that free movement is off the table which indicates that remaining in the single market for goods and services is also not contemplated.
There was much talk of developing new trade relationships outside the single market, but thus far there is no indication that any such new relationship is likely. Absence from the free market in is likely have a serious impact on the UK economy, both for industry and for the providers of services, particularly those in the City of London. The consequences for the economy may be catastrophic – and will hit the poorest hardest.
Some of the “have nots” who voted for Brexit are beginning to behave rather like those similarly disenfranchised in Spain, Italy and Germany who supported fascism and national socialism in Europe in the the interwar period – with horrendous consequences. And those like Farage and some Conservative Brexiteers are encouraging them.
David Lammy has written this in the Guardian: “I didn’t endorse May’s Brexit timetable – but I’m no ‘enemy of the people’ – Hurling abuse at anyone who dares mention that 48% of the country voted to remain in the EU will do nothing to bring our divided country back together“. He makes a lot of good points.
Brexit in the Supreme Court
The arguments of Counsel for the different parties are now over. The Court will consider the papers and the submissions and deliver its judgement in the New Year.
At the end of the hearing, Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, reminded everyone that whatever that judgement was, it could not “overturn the result of the EU referendum”; the case was simply about “the process by which that result can lawfully be brought into effect”.
The Guardian has this piece: “Court in an existential nightmare over Brexit” and one short passage did very much reflect my own view of the state of play by the time of the Government’s Reply:-
“Last up was James Eadie, the QC with the short straw of restating the government’s case that had already been laughed out of the divisional courts. Eadie looked up at the clock with the eye of a condemned man. An hour. A whole hour to try to make the same points he had never really believed in when he’d opened the case on the previous Monday.”
Paul Johnston, who has been a very senior journalist at the Torygraph Telegraph for over 20 years had this: “Supreme Court day four, lunchtime briefing: enormous questions about power and legal writ loom over this appeal”. Mr Johnston identifies these constitutional principles:-
- The law of the land cannot be changed other than by an Act of Parliament
- Legal limits on ministerial powers cannot be imposed by anything less than an Act of Parliament and
- The Courts will not interfere in the proceedings of Parliament
He carefully does not mention the principle that rights granted by statute can only be taken away by statute. He then identifies the problem he sees, as being that his principles numbers (1) and (2) are incompatible with principle numbered (3) and asserts:-
“And how the judges square the circle will be of crucial importance. The reason is that a Bill, as opposed to a motion to approve the triggering of Article 50, is amendable and Labour made clear yesterday that they would use the legislation to push and prod the Government towards a particular type of Brexit. At some point, the Government may dig in its heels and be forced into a vote it could lose.”
That is what worries the Government (and therefore the Torygraph): the observance of the proper legislative process might inhibit Teresa May and her Brexit Ministers from implementing a Brexit policy which may well not have majority support in Parliament.
Perhaps that is why the Government appealed the decision of the Divisional Court: hoping against hope that the Supreme Court might find a way to leave Mrs May with the freedom to act as she thinks fit, she knowing full well that: (1) her government has only a small majority in the House of Commons (2) prior to the Referendum, some 163 Conservative Members wished the EU to remain in the UK – see The Conservative Difficulty page and that some in her party might make trouble in the Commons.
The Financial Times has this: “Greater clarity from May will smooth Brexit path – The UK prime minister should learn from the Supreme Court hearing” which says a lot of very sensible things and which ends with this:-
“Mrs May promised to build “a country that works for everyone”, which means she must show respect to those who wanted a different outcome. Too often, she has focused on the demands of the 52 per cent that voted to leave the EU. The nation did not give the government a mandate for a specific form of Brexit. Mrs May should take into account the 48 per cent of Remain voters and guide the Brexit process in an open manner for the interests of the whole nation.”
But that is not the way that Mrs May and her Brexit Ministers seem to want to proceed.
Today’s Telegraph has this: “Supreme Court Brexit appeal: Judges ‘heading for split 7-4 decision’ in narrow win for Remain campaigners“. This piece was apparently written by the Chief Political Correspondent of the Telegraph and it purports to be based on the opinions of the Government’s legal advisers. Frankly it is largely nonsense.
Firstly, a majority of just 1 justice either way is all it takes to decide the issue. That is why any panel of the Supreme Court always has an odd number of Justices. Secondly, whether the outcome is by an overwhelming or a narrow margin, it will decide whether or not the government must proceed by way of a statute rather than by the prerogative. That is all that matters. If the decision is that the government must introduce a bill, then it is highly unlikely that the Members of Parliament who will have to vote on the proposals and on any amendments which may be tabled will be in any way influenced by the size of the majority in the Supreme Court one way or another.
In reality, this article may be nothing more than confirmation that the Government expects to lose its appeal and this an attempt to make the defeat less damaging.
The Guardian has this on another Conservative attempt to turn the clock back: “UK bill of rights delayed further by Brexit and supreme court case – Attorney general Jeremy Wright tells Commons the government has a ‘few other things on our plate’ when asked about bill“.
While there is some discussion in the article of the way the Supreme Court will now reach a decision, what is interesting is the Government’s desire to postpone that so-called “British Bill of Rights” until the Brexit negotiations are concluded. There is no doubt that some Conservative Ministers, including and particular the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary, have found the present Human Rights Act more than inconvenient.
This is yet another manifestation of the core Conservative political philosophy on many such issues: How about bringing back the death penalty? Imprisonment with hard labour? Birch young offenders? Stop refugees coming to the UK?
“Never move forwards – Moving backwards is preferable – If you cannot move forwards, move sideways. But NEVER move fowards!“.
Associate Citizenship in the event of Brexit
The Guardian also has this report: “Brexit talks to include plan for UK nationals to keep EU citizenship – European parliament’s chief negotiator says associate citizenship would be ‘on the table’ for talks over Britain’s withdrawal from EU“.
See also this in the Guardian: “Huge increase in Britons seeking citizenship in EU states as Brexit looms – Across 18 countries, at least 2,800 Britons applied for citizenship in first eight months of 2016, with Denmark seeing biggest rise“.
It is encouraging that some people in the EU institutions have more respect for preserving our EU rights than does our own government. It is early days and nothing may come of it, but it is good to see that it is being discussed.
It rather brings to mind visits I have paid to the Bayeux War Cemetery. Opposite the Cemetery is the Bayeux Memorial which bears a Latin inscription. In translation it reads: “We [i.e. the British], once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land“. It is rather nice to think that at least some of our European friends are looking out for our best interests.
Sadly, we cannot trust the Government and the Conservative Brexiteers to do the same.