Law breaking & Brexit

It seems astonishing that, in modern times, the UK Government appears to be trying to break the law.

More than 800 years ago Magna Carta outlined the idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed and that government as well as the governed is bound by the law. It has also been more than 300 years since the Bill of Rights which said parliament is sovereign.

Twice Gina Miller has brought cases against the government to ensure it complies with the law and twice she has won. In 2017, it was that the government had to obtain the consent of parliament to give notice under Article 50 to leave the EU. More recently, it was that the government could not prorogue (suspend) parliament to avoid scrutiny of its approach to Brexit. You could argue that the government was not deliberately breaking the law – it was simply exercising powers it believes it had, only to be told parliament has those powers.

But the latest move by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be a deliberate attempt to take an unlawful act. Earlier this year, parliament passed an Act requiring the government to seek a 3 month extension to the Brexit leaving date of 31 October unless parliament approves a withdrawal agreement or approves leaving without one. Boris Johnson seems hell bent on leaving the EU, even without a deal and will not give an unequivocal indication he will comply with the law. He appears to be playing to the loud hardcore section of the 17.4m who voted for Brexit, who believe the 2016 referendum was the end of the legal process, not the start. Armchair punditry and fervently-held beliefs are no substitute for the rule of law and, whether you support leave or remain, it is in the best interests of all 67m in the UK that the government acts lawfully.

On the plus side, parliamentary sovereignty is clearly alive and well after all.

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