In an interview with The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn (shocked to see him interacting with the right-wing press) had a go at Theresa May for being like Henry VIII in her desire to keep the triggering of Article 50 from parliament, instead citing royal prerogative as the means to do this. In layman’s terms, being a bit of a queen about it all.
It made me think again about the Brexit debate. My biggest concerns, evaluating the last six months, has been the lack of vision for a post-Brexit combined with a slight authoritarian air to the whole thing. One of the reasons I was pro-Remain was that I rather liked power being taken away from Westminster and being given to Brussels. Not because I think that Westminster is the swamp of populist description, but rather that I like power being put into various places so that no one can build up a monopoly. Liberal Brexiteers had a different take on this and that’s fine.
What’s less fine has been an attack on the idea that the parliament that was supposed to become sovereign again should have a say in how we leave the EU from the very same people who argued the sovereignty of parliament point the hardest. I have found this genuinely worrying. Here I was concerned that taking Brussels out of the picture would mean parliament would get too big for its britches, eventually leading to prime ministers having too much power, when instead we jumped straight to PMs acting like monarchs in one go.
Another example of this authoritarian bent has been the idea that questioning any part of he government’s Brexit plan is tantamount to “questioning the will of the people”. Democracy, we all need to be reminded, is all about questioning what those who have gained power via the will of the people really do with that power when they get it – that’s why effective opposition is so important. Let’s take a pertinent, hypothetical example. Corbyn’s Labour wins a 50-seat majority off the back of a promise to send every single household in Britain a cheque for £1,000. Not only would it be right for the Tory opposition to hound the Labour government if they failed to deliver on this promise – they would be remise in their basic duties if they failed to do so.
As a Remainer, I would still like Britain to remain in the EU, but accept that we had a vote and that’s that. What’s important now is debating how to do this in a way that is constructive to the future of the country, not a childish shouting match. I intend in the new year to look at ways that Brexit could work to the betterment of the country – accepting that this is a very difficult task indeed. If only more Leavers were dedicated to the same mission. Take that as being one of my new year’s wishes.