Could Brexit be prevented altogether?
January 17, 2017 5:09 AM   Subscribe

British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that leaving the EU would mean leaving the single market, and that both Houses of Parliament would get to vote on the deal. If the House of Lords believes it would be bad for Britain to leave the single market, could they prevent Brexit? How likely is this to occur? Could the Commons overrule them in this instance?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Commons can side-step the Lords using the Parliament Acts. I think it's incredibly unlikely that either House will block Brexit directly. The best that I can imagine is the Lords tacking on an amendment requiring a second referendum to validate the deal and there being enough of a rebellion in the Commons for that to go through.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:13 AM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

No: The House of Commons can always override the Lords eventually if it has the political will to do so.
posted by pharm at 5:58 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Final say on all legal matters in the UK is with the HoC (s'called Parliamentary sovereignty).

(And, metaphorically, they can't create a stone too heavy for them to lift - a later Parliament can always overrule an earlier one).
posted by Leon at 6:10 AM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Final say on all legal matters in the UK is with the HoC (s'called Parliamentary sovereignty).

Parliament in this case is both houses and the monarch, not just the house of commons. Although of course the HoL has had its power very much reduced and the commons can always over-rule them eventually.

The traditional succinct summary of the British constitution is "What the Queen in parliament enacts is law", in other words, an act of parliament passed by both houses and given royal assent is binding law and no-one can prevent or countermand it except that a future parliament can undo it.

The UK Supreme court is currently ruling, not on whether the UK can leave the EU, but on whether the government (using its royal prerogative powers over foreign affairs) can send the notification to trigger article 50 without going through the full process of Commons + Lords + royal assent.

The deal that parliament will vote on is the deal negotiated with the EU, by that point, the UK will already be committed to leaving (or may actually have left already).
posted by atrazine at 6:44 AM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Lords can't prevent it as other commenters have noted. In theory the HoC could, but it gets messy. If we're just talking about May's current proposal then presumably the "final deal" comes well after the Article 50 notification, so even if we want to take it back, the other member states would (probably) have to agree to revoke the notification (there may actually be a case about this going on).
This is one of the key arguments in the case that the Supreme Court is currently considering - ie whether the HoC has ultimate control over whether Article 50 is triggered, or whether that's in the gift of the Executive. On the politics alone however, even if the ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, the likelihood is that it will be triggered because there aren't enough votes to oppose it.
posted by crocomancer at 6:48 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's an article about two cases in progress - one on whether article 50 is revocable, the second on whether leaving the EU means leaving the EEA. Both bear on your question - the first because if Article 50 is revocable, a "final deal" vote in the HoC has a lot more teeth. The second opens up a loophole that the Government would also have to separately leave the EEA, so that would also have to be agreed by the HoC.
posted by crocomancer at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm far from an expert, but from what I've heard and read, the best chance to stop Brexit would be for the Supreme Court to rule that the devolved parliaments have to assent to leaving the EU, because the Scottish Parliament would never vote for it. I think it's a long shot, though.
posted by Automocar at 8:27 AM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

The govt have stated that the vote will be on whether to accept the negotiated deal or walk away and go with "WTO rules", so it's not on "Brexit vs no Brexit" so much as "Hard Brexit vs Hardestest Brexit". Moreover, any attempt to even slightly slow down the process meets with a colossal howling and gnashing of teeth from the popular press, who will with great cheer and determination go out of their way to make your life a misery: look at what happened to the Supreme Court judges, who've not even made a public pronouncement yet.

I could maybe see the process being slowly derailed by all sorts of obstacles being thrown up: a combination of the SC ruling that the devolved govts need a say, the ongoing shitshow in Stormont, problems relating to the Irish border and maybe a resurgence of the Troubles*, big business funding publically moving away from the Tories and towards whoever will try and stay in the Single Market, the above problems postponing the Article 50 process until it means the negotiating process will land in the middle of the French/German elections, or cross a UK general election, the ECJ ruling that A50 is revocable (and people capitalizing on this), and in general becoming even more of a mess than it already is.

However: the Tories are terrified of UKIP eating their lunch in an election, Labour can't even put together a circular firing squad because that would at least require them to stand in some sort of recognizable shape, and there's not much left of the Lib Dems. Mayybe if things get strung out long enough that we run into a general election, or 2/3 of the Commons votes for an early GE, and there's a coordinated Remain Coalition campaign like happened in Richmond, and it;'s much more clear to the Great British Public that maybe swallowing some pride and remaining wouldnt' be so bad, AND they've got the backbone to put up with years of bile from the Daily Mail, it could work out.. ..maybe? If it happens I can't see it being through conventional means.

* I still can't believe more people aren't making a big deal out of this, except insofar as it proves that the UK as a whole has learned absolutely nothing from a few decades of killing, or just doesn't care about NI, or (more probably) both. But it could be the undoing of a lot of things.
posted by doop at 10:02 AM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you are interested in the legal issues I'd reccomend following the Jack of Kent blog on brexit; the summary of the issues at stake with the supreme court case is very clearly put out.

And while I don't think that it is actually within Scotland's power to stop Brexit, we are now in the realms of fighting talk: "I am not prepared to allow Scotland's interests to be simply cast aside. I'm not prepared for Scotland to be taken down a path which I firmly believe to be damaging not just to our economy but to the very kind of society that we are."
Aside from the Scottish conservatives, this has cross-party support in Scotland - the unionist parties see how brexit is playing into the SNP's hands, the nationalists are always big on establishing an identity of being different to England. It will be easy to get a Holyrood majority against brexit - the question is whether anything can be done with that.

(And a propos of the above, the "UK" and "Great British Public" did not get us into this mess, English people outside of London did. I say this as an English person.)
posted by Vortisaur at 10:50 AM on January 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Jack of Kent is a great suggestion; he also tweets as Law and Policy. Schona Jolly and Jo Maugham are also great law tweeters on this issue. Shockproofbeats has been fantastic on the ramifications for Northern Ireland.

I am following a lot of legal blogs at the moment because, as Automocar and doop have said, the best chance of derailing Theresa May's determination to leave the EU is through the court cases and the devolved parliaments. Corbyn is pandering to the Brexiteers now, trying to prevent defections from Labour to UKIP, ignoring the strong geographic correlation between Labour and Remain strongholds.

Preventing Brexit is now the official policy of the Liberal Democrat party, who hold very few seats but seem to be making a comeback: they've won a few by-elections since the referendum, including one in Brexit-friendly Sunderland. Other politicians opposed to Brexit include Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, of course, and David Lammy, who seems to be the conscience of the Labour Party at the moment.

A huge amount hinges on the Supreme Court's judgement, expected any day now.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:47 PM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't have the answer, but another good blog is EU Law Analysis, recommended here a while ago.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:57 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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