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    'Brexitshambles'? Don't Blame the Judges, Blame the Government

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    Neil Clark

    The Thursday, November 3, ruling by the UK High Court that Brexit will need Parliamentary approval has been met with a furious response from anti-EU newspapers, politicians and campaigners.

    The euroskeptic Daily Mail certainly didn't mince its words, denouncing the three judges who made the ruling as "Enemies of the People" on its Friday, November 4, front page.

    Well, for what it's worth, I think the High Court judgement was flawed, bearing in mind the pledge made by the UK government on the referendum leaflet that they would implement what the people decided, and there must be a great chance the ruling will be overturned on appeal at the Supreme Court.

    That said, the anger directed at the High Court judges while understandable, is rather misplaced. If we want to find the real guilty party in this #Brexitshambles, then we need to look no further than the Conservative government.

    On June 23, the British people, by a majority of 52% to 48%, voted to "Leave the European Union" — to use the exact wording on the ballot paper. 

    "This is your decision," the government declared in the referendum leaflet which was sent to every household in the country.

    "The government will implement what you decide."

    What should have happened on June 24 — or at least at some point in the week which followed — is the invocation, by the British government, of Article 50, formally starting the UK's withdrawal from the EU. That is, after all, what Prime Minister David Cameron had promised us back in February. 

    "If the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger Article 50 of the treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away," Cameron said.

    The much-maligned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did in fact call for Article 50 to be triggered straight away after the referendum result was announced.

    "The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union," Corbyn said

    And we can't blame so-called "Eurocrats" for the failure to send off Article 50 either.

    Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty that deals with the mechanism for departure is pictured near an EU flag following Britain's referendum results to leave the European Union, in this photo illustration taken in Brussels, Belgium, June 24, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Francois Lenoir
    Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty that deals with the mechanism for departure is pictured near an EU flag following Britain's referendum results to leave the European Union, in this photo illustration taken in Brussels, Belgium, June 24, 2016.

    On June 24, no less a personage than Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, called for Britain to trigger Article 50 "as soon as possible." Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, the country which then held the EU's rotating Presidency, was quoted in the Guardian as saying that any delay to Brexit would "unnecessarily prolong uncertainty."

    Martin Schulz, the European Parliament President, tweeted:

    But a "speedy and clear exit negotiation" is what we most certainly didn't get from the UK government. 

    It soon became clear that the Tories — and even Tories who had campaigned for Brexit — had never expected the British people to vote Leave. And when they voted Leave, the Tories — as commentator Scott Nelson correctly states — didn't have a clue what to do next. 

    The Tory response to the shock result was to come out with platitudes — like Theresa May's classic "Brexit means Brexit" and to keep delaying the triggering of Article 50. The promises made by Cameron were quietly forgotten. 

    We were told that instead of invoking Article 50 "straight away" — the process wouldn't begin at all in 2016. 

    Prominent Tory Brexit campaigners — like Boris Johnson — also seemed to be changing their tune.

    This inaction only emboldened Remainers, the vast majority of whom had fully accepted the June 23 result.

    It was inevitable, and indeed totally foreseeable, that given the government's procrastination, legal challenges to Brexit would be launched. Cynics might even argue that as new Prime Minister Theresa May herself was Remainer — and given her party's heavy dependence on funds from the generally pro-Remain City of London — delaying Brexit until such challenges could be brought, may even have been part of the strategy.

    Although Brexit is likely to pass the House of Commons, should the appeal to the Supreme Court fail, the House of Lords could still throw a sizeable spanner in the works, potentially triggering a major constitutional crisis. Arguments over Brexit look likely to dominate British politics for months to come.

    An atmosphere that was already poisonous enough, is likely to become even more so. It really didn't have to be like this.

    It's worth remembering that the decision to give the public a vote on Europe was only made by David Cameron because he feared UKIP doing serious damage to the Tories' electoral prospects.

    His referendum pledge helped him over the line in the 2015 general election, but the Tories failure to act swiftly in June, after the people had made their historic decision, has created enormous problems.

    To see the UK government now posing as the protectors of the "people's will" against the judiciary is nauseating to say the least.

    Hopefully, enough people will see through the charade, for the current #Brexitshambles wasn't cooked up by three judges in the High Court, but in Number 10, Downing Street. 

    Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.


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    Hard Brexit, post-Brexit, Article 50, court ruling, Brexit, media coverage, referendum, opinion, UK Referendum, UK Parliament, House of Lords, House of Commons, UK High Court, European Union, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Great Britain, Europe, United Kingdom
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