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5:24pm on Monday, 7th November, 2016:

Careful What you Wish for


Suppose that the Supreme Court upholds the position that although the Prime Minister can use Royal Prerogative to declare war, she can't use it to trigger a clause in a treaty. What happens?

Well, parliament gets to vote. So how would it vote?

Suppose you are an English MP. As with most MPs, you support Remain. If your party whips tell you to vote in favour of Leave, you have to decide whether to vote with your conscience or not. Let's imagine that it's a free vote, though, so you can vote how you please without defying the party line. You'll vote down the bill to trigger Brexit, then, will you?

No, you won't.

You look at what happened in Scotland after the independence referendum there. In the following general election, voters on the side that won in general cast their votes how they normally would: Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Green. Voters on the side that lost overwhelmingly voted for the Scots Nationalists. Because of the way the British electoral system works, this handed the SNP nearly every seat in Scotland.

So, you consider what would happen if parliament voted down the Brexit-triggering bill. In the following general election, the Remain voters would vote along their party lines as usual. The Leave voters would overwhelmingly vote for UKIP. If the SNP can take nearly every seat in Scotland on a 45% share of the independence referendum vote, how many seats will UKIP take on a 50%+ share of the vote? They could probably afford to drop down to a 40% share of the vote (because some people may have changed their minds) and they'll still storm parliament. The first thing they'll do in office is vote to trigger the Brexit clause, which will pass with ease. Gawd knows what they'll do after that.

So, the result of your vote to prevent Brexit is that you lose your job and we get Brexit anyway.

This is why you're going to say that despite your own personal convictions, you're going to respect the will of the people and vote in favour of triggering the Brexit clause.

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Copyright © 2016 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).