The Daily Express: The constitutional change that could have saved Brexit referendum result

Boris Johnson is committed to leaving the EU on October 31 “whatever the circumstances”, but a group of Remain-supporting ministers and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are currently attempting to undermine his bid to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the bloc. Amid fears a new general election could be triggered, former leader of the House of Lords, Robert Salisbury, told Express.co.uk the constitutional change that could have saved the Brexit referendum result.

By Martina Bet

19th August 2019

This week, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay signed a commencement order which will bring Britain out of the EU on October 31 in a landmark do or die pledge. The commencement order will repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and bring the European Withdrawal Act that MPs voted through last September into force. Despite the signing of the order, attempts to fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise to the people, Remain-backing MPs are expected to table a vote of no confidence against Mr Johnson before October 31, which could see an alternative government put into place.

The plan would be to extend Article 50 and call a general election and Jeremy Corbyn has begged MPs across all parties to support him as leader.

Today, the veteran left-winger will give a speech as part of his trip to Northamptonshire, and is set to say the UK is facing a Brexit crisis and will vow to do “everything necessary” to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

As fears another general election might be triggered and the result of the referendum overthrown, former leader of the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury, explained to Express.co.uk the constitutional change that could have saved the Brexit referendum result.

Lord Salisbury is currently campaigning with other members of the Constitution Reform Group for the Act of Union Bill – a ready made blue print which aims to “rebalance and stabilise the constitutional relationships between the four nations of the United Kingdom”.

The bill sets out a new constitutional framework for the UK which includes provisions for English devolution, subject to a “commencement referendum” in all four parts of the state.

It also provides an option for the House of Lords to be replaced by a new elected chamber to represent “a new federation of the UK” and would only come into force if approved by a referendum.

When asked how it would differ from the 2016 Brexit plebiscite, Lord Salisbury explained: “We hope that if this Bill was introduced, that it will be properly looked at.

“It will unleash a referendum, which will be what I think all referendum ought to be, which is post-legislative.

“So that first of all, you get over the question problem.

“The question is ‘do you approve with this piece of legislation or not’?

“People will see if they are interested after a very long run at thinking about the question they are going to be asked when the legislation has gone through.

“Very important.

“But also it is Parliament which has decided that there’s going to be a referendum and not the Prime Minister, who does it only for reasons of political expedience.

“I think there is a very important question which we sort of address here, which is who decides when there is a referendum, under what circumstances and what are the rules governing that.”

In such a system, the result of the 2016 referendum would be guaranteed because its constitutional implications would have been protected and enshrined prior to the vote – unlike today where it is still open to interpretation.

Previously, Lord Salisbury argued how EU membership made it much easier to hold the British Parliament in contempt.

He told Express.co.uk: “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.”

Full access to the article can be found here.


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