David Lammy on what the bombshell court case will mean
PUBLISHED: 09:01 04 November 2016 | UPDATED: 10:14 02 December 2016
PA Wire/PA Images
It’s a great day for democracy, says Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy
This is what regaining our sovereignty looks like. This is what taking back control really means – the High Court unanimously agreeing that the Government does not have the power to trigger Article 50 without our sovereign Parliament and elected representatives voting to do so.
Since 1689 we have been a parliamentary democracy – the very same parliamentary democracy that we have proudly promoted around the world and which is underpinned by the Bill of Rights of 1689.
That 326-year-old document sets out that Parliament and only Parliament, not the Crown (be that King, Queen or a power-grabbing Government) has the authority to give people statutory rights, and only Parliament has the power to take those statutory rights away.
So the court case is a great victory for Parliamentary democracy, for us all in the UK – the foundation of our unwritten constitution which we are rightly proud of. That is the fundamental underlying rule of law that the High Court applied in reaching its decision on Article 50.
But the result does not mean that Brexit won’t happen. It absolutely does not mean that Parliament will not vote for Brexit.
What this means is that Parliament has to have a say – and it is individual Members of Parliament who are democratically accountable to the electorate at the ballot box who must decide on Article 50 – not an ‘unelected’ Government acting alone. Practically, this means that the Government has to bring forward detailed plans and draft legislation, and those plans will then be scrutinised, debated and voted on by all 650 MPs.
After going through that oversight and scrutiny process our elected and democratically accountable representatives in the House of Commons will each form their own view on what would be in the best interests of the thousands of people who they have been elected to represent, and then vote according to that opinion.
And for many of my 649 colleagues they will decide and vote to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU. It is their constitutional right and responsibility to do so, and they are accountable to their constituents for the decisions that they take. If our unelected Prime Minister, Theresa May, wants to bring the country together then this is what she should do - call a vote on whether to trigger Article 50 in the House of Commons and enable each individual Member of Parliament, who has been elected to serve their constituents and represent their views in the House of Commons, approve or oppose the Government’s plans.
Since 1689 our Parliament has been supreme and sovereign – because only an Act of Parliament can amend or overrule an Act of Parliament. As the Lord Chief Justice said in the ruling: “The most fundamental rule of the UK’s constitution is that Parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses. “
That is the rule of law which the judges applied: long may they do so.
David Lammy is the Member of Parliament for Tottenham and the first MP to call for a parliamentary vote on Article 50 before Brexit.