EU membership has had a profound impact on the British constitution, as the impact of powers leaving Parliament made it much easier to hold the institution in contempt, Lord Salisbury has claimed in an interview with Express.co.uk.
By Martina Bet
16 July 2019
Three years after Britain voted to leave the EU in a historic referendum, it is clear Brexit has placed the country in a deep political crisis. Britain was originally supposed to leave on March 29, but despite been given a clear instruction from the electorate, the House of Commons rejected every possible approach to resolving the crisis and the deadline was extended twice. As a result, Theresa May resigned while the Conservative Party suffered an embarrassing defeat in the local and European elections.
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, the two final candidates in the Conservative leadership race, have vowed to deliver a no deal divorce unless they can make sweeping changes to Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement.
However, the bloc has reiterated on several occasions that it will not reopen negotiations and it is not clear how the next Prime Minister will force through no deal Brexit against the will of Parliament.
As uncertainty looms with many political analysts suggesting the country is sleepwalking into a constitutional conundrum, a cross-party group has come up with a solution.
The Constitution Reform Group (CRG), an all-party project convened by former leader of the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury, is currently advocating the Act of Union Bill – the first attempt to “devise a coherent plan for what should happen after many powers return from the European Union”.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Lord Salisbury argued that one of the main reasons behind the Brexit crisis is that when Britain joined the European club in 1973, “an increasing amount of power left Parliament”.
He then explained: “One of the effects of this has been that there are fewer people going into Parliament because power has gone elsewhere.
“As a result Parliament becomes more and more held in contempt.
“There are always crooks in Parliament, always people who are not quite respectable.
“But the institution is supreme and could survive having people who shouldn’t be there.
“If there are people who shouldn’t be there now, it is much easier to hold the institution in contempt because it no longer has the power.”
With the Act of Union Bill, Lord Salisbury hopes to provide an opportunity for a discussion about how membership to Parliament and governance can improve.
The CRG’s proposals say the existing union should be replaced with fully devolved governments in each part of the UK.
The individual nations and regions would then be encouraged to pool their sovereignty together to cover matters they wish to be dealt with on a shared basis.
Under one version, the House of Lords would be abolished and a Commons consisting of 146 MPs would be the main legislative chamber.
A new second chamber comprising delegates from the English, Scottish and Welsh parliaments and from the Northern Ireland assembly would be created.
Under the alternative, the Lords would be reduced to 400 members, with 75 percent directly elected on a federal basis and the rest appointed.
The Act of Union Bill is currently awaiting its second reading.
In the meantime, the cross-party group is developing and expanding the clauses within the Bill and welcoming feedback from those interested in contributing.
The Bill would only come into force if approved by a referendum with a majority of votes cast in the UK as a whole at 65 percent and on a majority in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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