Hope for Revoke

1/ The parliamentary stars are beginning to align in favour of Article 50 revocation, but if it is to happen some external push may still be needed. Here’s why and how.

2/ The withdrawal of the Benn amendment in favour of the Boles approach to seizing control of HoC business tomorrow (16th) increases the chances of drawing together majority in favour of a change in law to make Revoke the default position, instead of No Deal.

3/The crux of the argument to those who might make up that majority is that, by changing the default position from ‘disaster status’ to ‘not what we want in the longer term, but not disaster’, both Remainers and Sensible Brexiters can validly claim that they are decidedly not in favour of Revoke per se*; that they are determined to fight their corner — it’s just that they’ve acted as responsible (Burkean) parliamentarians to create a safety net/provide continuity of food imports.

4/ But both sides of the possible coalition will need more to assure them that they can persuade the electorate, that they are not secret Revokers per se.

5/ Such assurance is best achieved via the promise, within whatever legislation the ‘coup organisers’ are able to muster, of the constitutional mechanism which used to be deployed in cases of intractable policy or constitutional difficulties, but which has been the subject of collective parliamentary amnesia for the last few years.

6/ This mechanism is the Royal (or Parliamentary) Commission, formed by letters patent (thus giving a firm constitutional integrity stamp) to take a calm look at why parliament and country is in current mess, and recommend options to parliament for a) the future of referendums, given the mess this last one has landed us in b) the future relationship with EU.

7/ This, for the majority of people (and businesses) in the UK, meets head-on the key demand of “just make it stop”, while allowing a route to participation for those who wish to be part of a further dialogue, via Citizen Assemblies and other deliberative forms operating under the umbrella of a Commission process.

8/ But more pressure from outside is needed urgently. A useful but insufficient step comes from the Mayors of several cities today in their open letter calling for Article 50 extension, but more weight is needed from those who can claim democratic legitimacy.

9/ This should come from those with media influence, today, talking up the potential for local government pro-actively taking up the post-revocation deliberation challenge I have set out, offering further succour to Brexit MP waverers for this course.

*Some caution is needed here, as paras 148–156 of the ECJ verdict on the Wightman et al. case, which confirmed that the UK can revoke unilaterally, also made clear that “A further limit on the exercise of the right of unilateral revocation arises from the principles of good faith and sincere cooperation”, but as a lay reader I cannot see that a proper Revoke & Deliberate process would fall into the category of ‘bad faith’, even if it were to keep option open for later reinstatement of the Article 50 process on new reasoning.