I was so angry, I wrote a letter

Like many people in the UK, though sadly not all, I found the vote to Leave and both the immediate and prospective consequences of it, devastating and heart-breaking. It does not seem an idle matter to me. I worry deeply about a course that seems likely to destroy the Union and impoverish the country morally and economically. It also appears to me a course that diverts vital political capital from the deep, underlying problems that have manifested themselves in the vote to Leave.

The Problem

One of the worst aspects of it all was a sense of powerlessness in the face of impending disaster. I never wanted the Referendum in the first place and now I seemed unable to influence the course of events.

The Solution

So I decided to write to my MP.

I think our representatives do care about our views. I also think they care about the letters they receive; viewing the energy needed to write a letter and send it as as a proxy for the strength of feeling their constituents have on the issue. It’s easy to write to your MP and to your MEP and to any of your representatives: www.writetothem.com

This is the text of the letter I wrote to my MP, Tulip Siddiq. For this post I have added slightly to the section on constitutional law over the version I sent to reflect my mature view. If you find any or all of it helpful when you come to write your own letters please feel free to take and to adapt as you see fit.

But please do write. Now is the moment. If there is any good to come of this, let it be that we become more politically active. These are our rights at stake, our country, our sense of community.

Don’t be a watcher only…

The Letter

“I am writing in respect of the recent Referendum and its result to ask you, as my representative:

A) to insist that no step be taken to initiate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU without a vote in Parliament; and

B) to ask that, in such a vote, you vote against withdrawal.

The Referendum vote does not compel you to vote in favour of withdrawal:

1. First, as our representative your duty is to act in the best interests of your constituents and withdrawal from the EU is plainly not in those interests.

2. Second, the basis for the vote was irredeemably tainted by the lies of those campaigning for Leave.

3. Third, the situation since the vote has changed the landscape in the following, relevant, ways:

a. First, the result has prompted calls for dissolution of the Union, that cannot have been an aspect of the Leave vote contemplated by those voting for it.

b. Second, it is clear that the intended course is to seek EEA membership instead of EU membership. This will result in the UK being under precisely the same obligations, including as to free movement, as it would have been as an EU member but without any say in the formation or content of those obligations and require the UK to pay a greater contribution to the EU than it would have done as a member. That is directly contrary to the apparent intentions of those voting Leave.

4. Fourth, those voting Leave amounted to only 37% of the eligible voters. There is, therefore, no mandate from the country as a whole for leaving the EU so as to oblige you to vote against your conscience. Given that leaving the EU is a significant constitutional change that would deprive the citizens of very valuable rights it should not be enacted without a clear majority voting in favour of doing so.

5. Finally, only one party at the last General Election campaigned on an explicit manifesto commitment to leave the EU and that was UKIP. UKIP obtained only one seat in Parliament and only 12.6% of the vote. Accordingly, there is no mandate for leave from the country as a whole.

You will no doubt be aware that, as a matter of constitutional law, there is a strong argument that the Government may not initiate the Art 50 procedure provided for in the Treaty for the European Union without the authorisation of Parliament. The inevitable effect of initiating Art 50 would be to render the European Communities Act 1972 a nullity. Parliamentary sovereignty requires that Acts of Parliament only be revoked by Parliament and not under prerogative powers. See Fire Brigades Union Case [1995] 2 AC 513. As a Member of Parliament it is your duty to protect the sovereignty of Parliament. I urge you to do so.

It is clear that many of those voting Leave are doing so because of a strong sense of disenfranchisement and because they, themselves, are not conscious of the benefits of EU membership but, to the contrary, have suffered in a changing and globalising world. Their concerns need to be addressed, not pandered to or diverted into inchoate rage. The political capital to address those very real issues is being squandered on this talk of leaving the EU. We need political leadership and I urge you to show some.

On a personal note, I would add that the vote to Leave has been devastating. I took great pride in the idea that Britain was part of something greater and that it could encourage other countries to follow in its ideals. I revelled in and benefited from the cosmopolitan mix of people that it brought to this country and from the huge boost to the economy that it prompted. If we left it seems it will presage only the end of the Union and years of economic turmoil. I ask why I must be forced to choose to be “English” or “Scottish” when I feel British and European. I ask why we must allow those that voted from nationalistic and xenophobic motives to be given a filip by feeling they are part of something bigger and acceptable. I ask why my representatives didn’t stand up and do their job in the first place.

I would be grateful for confirmation that you will adopt the two matters I set out at A and B above or explanation of why you will not do so.

Yours sincerely,”

Benet Brandreth