When the will of the people is secondary

Readers are doubtless aware by now that the UK Supreme Court has ruled that the British government can’t withdraw from the European Union without an authorizing vote in Parliament.  This is despite the fact that the British people voted for such a withdrawal in a referendum last year.  The Telegraph reports:

A group of campaigners, led by businesswoman and philanthropist Gina Miller, asked the High Court to rule last year on whether the Government’s proposal to invoke Article 50 using the royal prerogative was legal.

The High Court ruled in November that using the royal prerogative did not follow the correct parliamentary process, meaning that only a vote in Parliament could give the Prime Minister authority to trigger Brexit.

Because the referendum on Britain’s EU membership last June was not legally binding, it was treated by the court as a consultative exercise, and the judges decided that an Act of Parliament was required to make Brexit legal.

The Government appealed against that ruling, which has now been decided by the highest court in the country and has set a legal precedent for generations to come.

There’s more at the link.

What this means, in so many words, is that even if the British people express their will in a referendum, that popular vote can be overturned if the Members of Parliament decide, in their wisdom (?), to vote for something else – something other than the result of the referendum.

We’ve heard much talk about the ‘establishment‘ in this country.  Here you see the ‘establishment’ in Britain at work.  Their attitude is clear.  “The will of the people?  That’s subject to what we have to say about it.  Who do these commoners think they are, anyway?”  (Forgetting that the British parliament is known as the ‘House of Commons’ for a reason!)

I think this decision is breathtakingly arrogant, and perfectly illustrates how the political class have lost touch with the people.  I hope the Commons votes to implement the will of the British people, as stated in the referendum result.  If it doesn’t, it’ll precipitate a far worse constitutional crisis, one where the will of the people is revealed to be of secondary rather than primary importance, advisory rather than binding.  If that happens, it will reveal clearly that Britain is no longer a democracy at all . . . and that will have repercussions all over the world.



  1. Last time a self-declared bunch of common English citizens cried "Enough!" It didn't work out the way the Royals expected. Further proving that a Constitution may not be the be-all and end-all, but it certainly can enshrine the common man's rights.


  2. Er… Ummm…

    Let's see now.

    The Electoral College decides on a different president than the candidate who won the popular vote. This is legitimate because the Electoral College is established by law and has this power.

    But then, in the UK, another body established by law is not allowed to overturn / circumvent a popular vote on Brexit, despite having the power to do so?

    Pot, meet kettle…

  3. Good thing the British Elite have taken the guns from the people, otherwise an elite might get hurt in the coming revolt. This way the commoners will be easily put down.

  4. @Anonymous at 7:10 AM: Not so fast. The USA has never elected its Presidents by popular vote. It isn't a democracy – it's a constitutional republic. Big difference.

  5. In Britain, Parliament is sovereign. Parliament can pass whatever it wants as absolute law.

    In the US, the people are sovereign. At least in theory, with the Constitution the sovereign's rule.

    Now, interestingly, with all the promotion of "democracy" around the world, few nations, even those with constitutions, have the people as sovereign under a "hard and fast" constitution. The US government does not promote our form of government, preferring one of legislative (parliament) sovereignty. Also, note Republican or Democrat, they espouse "democracy" but never a real republican form of government. The poli sci profs obfuscate the differences, just as they avoid real discussion of socialism by adopting the 11th grade economics definition of "state ownership of the means of production". They work hard to avoid any discussion of the growing interventionism and "government-guided" enterprise.

  6. That the UK is a police state pretending to be a Democracy where its leaders are largely unaccountable is common knowledge.

    In any case the Brits and the rest are unlikely to rebel, its not a "lack of guns" issue as Dav suggested but a lack of will and a general sense of divisiveness.

    They have less of an idea of what would be better than the US does

  7. Hmmm…INteresting…

    In brief – this is, of course, the underlying, hard-core reality to the sometime-jibe about the difference between being "citizens" and being "subjects".

    Given the rather complex long-term governmental developmental history of the United Kingdom – which includes Great Britain, Scotland and Ireland – the complexities herein are…unusual, to say the least.

    In the end, though, the quite-likely outcome will be that there will be a favorable vote on the going-forward of Brexit in the House of Commons (which, although only one side of the bicameral Parliament – the other being the rather-truncated House of Lords – is presently [and has been for some time] much the greater agency of central government) "presently" – and a roughly-two-year run-down to the actual separation from the E.U. will proceed.

    The "hesitancy" arises from a) the present government's strong need/desire to make sure all proceeds in accord with The Law(s) as currently extant and b) the necessary "working-out" of just what both the inner and the outer faces of the U.K. will "look" like/act like at the end of that run-down. As was true in the original "hook-up" – somewhat-incomplete as it was, in the end – to membership in the E.U., the "disconnection" is (assuming it takes place, as is presently the expressed desire of the majority-vote of "subjects") a particular and altogether-singular event, largely without precedent. It's a major step – there are many questions to be answered.

    They're working out as many of the answers in advance as they can…trying for as little disruption (and possible danger) as possible.

    Interesting – if rather slow – to watch…preferably, from a bit of distance.

  8. Another article I read said that the "constitution" required a vote of Parliament. My response is, knowing the UK system, "what constitution?" The Brits have no written constitution and the courts say what the constitution is. If may wanted to, she could simply vote to invoke Article 50 and be gone. The Courts has no real power over the PM is she wants to defy it, and they are begging to be defied.

  9. @Anonymous at 7:10 AM: Your ignorance of the Constitution is on full display here. The twelfth Amendment lays it all out:

    The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.

    The Electoral college chooses the President. You will note that the Amendment is wholly silent on how electors are chosen, because THAT is decided by Article Two, Clause 2, which says:

    Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

    In other words, there is not one requirement that the electors be chosen by a vote. If a state wanted, it could choose the electors by randomly drawing names out of a hat, or simply nominate the cousins of the local dogcatcher.

  10. @Anonymous at 7:10 AM – It's more correct to say Trump *won* the popular vote in 29 of 51 contests representing 306 of 535 votes; each state + DC.

    It's the will of the people of the States, and the mechanism is well know and properly executed.

    You're incorrect assumption is that it's one election, it's not. That's how running up the vote in two states has no effect except to make misinformed people grumble about it.

    Anyway, it has been known throughout the campaign for Brexit that it wasn't truly binding, but the politicians – to their credit – have so far treated it with the deference and seriousness it requires and assumed to effect that will based on the referendum alone. they can't because it's been determined there is no mechanism other than a formal vote in Parliament.

  11. I hope the Commons votes to implement the will of the British people, as stated in the referendum result.

    Actually….no. If the Commons votes to oppose the will of the people it will perform a valuable service by educating "the people" about just where they stand in the Great Order of Things. Voting to confirm will merely kick the can down the road, until the next time a devisive issue arises. At some point, the divergence between government and those whom it seeks to govern may become severe enough as to require forceful resolution.

    Perhaps that's what the ruling class desires; I would suggest, however, a realignment now might be beneficial in avoiding Other Solutions later. See: "Leatherneck," above.

  12. 'businesswoman and philanthropist Gina Miller'? This woman, an immigrant to Britain has been found to be falsely laying claim to a degree in Law, thereby misrepresenting herself to her investors. It's a pity we don't still use the beheading blocks on Tower Green.

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