This post, and the need for it, underline the irresponsibility of this unnecessary referendum. Anything said, at almost any time, is twisted to prop up one side of the argument or the other — or both! It is plain from the facts that you could not legitimately be cited as a ‘Leave’ supporter, still less an advocate for Labour to want to leave the EU. However, a case can be made for your irresponsibility in threatening to support Leave if the Government renegotiation abandoned workers’ rights. Important as they are, it was wrong to use ending EU membership as a pressure point in the argument with the government. But this is a trivial criticism in the scale of what has followed.
It underlines a second point. According to a (dubious) poll of 19,000 (no doubt selected) Daily Telegraph subscribers announced today, the most important issue for Brexit supporters is the sovereignty of the British parliament. Yet the sovereignty of parliament has never been weakened by the EU: parliament itself has voted frequently to enter and consolidate the UK’s membership of the European institutions. Without those votes, we would not be a member. The government of the day — a weak Labour government in 1975 and a weak Conservative government in 2016 — was so internally divided that it by-passed parliament to ask the British people which side of their respective internal wrangles they wanted to support. The overwhelming mass of voters would prefer to say: ‘a plague on both of you — get on with governing the country responsibly and address the issues that really matter, like the causes of mass migration and relief for those most affected by it.’ Parliament has had, and will continue to have, ‘sovereignty’ in its relations with the government of the day, over legislation and over many other matters over which it has authority or oversight. Parliament has never had ‘sovereignty’ over this country’s foreign relations, including participation in treaties and bodies created by them. Parliament now has extensive consultation in relation to foreign affairs, and exercises extraordinarily thorough and constructive oversight of EU legislation impacting UK laws.
Those who really want to preserve the sovereignty of parliament will roundly reject the Leave campaign and vote on 23 June to maintain parliament’s important and constructive engagement with the EU.