Almost exactly 50 years ago to the day, Kenneth Wolstenholme, a sports commentator, said just before the end of another arguably momentous occasion for England: “They think it’s all over”, followed by, “it is now” as the English football team went on to win the World Cup in 1966.
However, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the recent, inarguably momentous occasion of the Referendum, which voted for the UK to leave the European Union. This is because the Remainers allege that the UK Government cannot simply invoke Article 50 to exit the EU without MPs and the House of Lords’ members passing legislation allowing it to do so.
A hairdresser, a fund manager and a solicitor called Panick (you couldn’t make it up) have all separately entered a legal challenge claiming that the Government cannot make the decision on its own to take us out of the EU. They have therefore applied to the High Court to confirm that the Referendum result is not legally binding.
One side claims that only the Crown has the power to enter into, or leave, international treaties.
Another side claims that there is an existing law or statute making European Union rules part of our legal system, which cannot be simply ignored by the Government of the day.
After the High Court hears the case in October, the losing side will almost certainly apply to the Court of Appeal and/or the Supreme Court for a hearing in November.
So, if the claimants win their case, we will have an interesting constitutional situation where the majority of the electorate democratically voted, albeit by a slim majority, to come out of the European Union but the decision to leave has to be essentially ratified by Parliament and the House of Lords, the majority of whom we know are in favour of remaining in the EU.
It looks therefore as if the Referendum is anything but over, as claimed by Mr Melford in last week’s Observer. Come on, folks, this is Britain: we just don’t do simple, straightforward.
I D Tomisson
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