Why Labour’s Brexit defectors need a lesson in the UK’s Parliamentary constitution

By Tim Focas, director of Financial Services at Westminster think tank Parliament Street

Another day in Westminster, and another clutch of politicians who still cannot accept the result of the referendum. Andy Slaughter, Catherine West and Ruth Cadbury. No, me either until Jeremy Corbyn sacked them last week after they voted in favour of Britain remaining within the Customs Union and the Single Market.

But if a vote on the UK’s future relationship with Europe is so important to the trio, why didn’t they request a debate on David Cameron’s negotiation terms last year? The answer is because it is unheard of to have a vote on what a government may or may not negotiate. The job of Parliament is to scrutinise what has been done, as opposed to authorising actions to happen. So, despite what harden remain MP’s may say, Parliament is not denning any vote. On a contrary, it votes every day on opposition day motions. The only binding votes the government has is legislation, which surprise surprise, will come at the end of the renegotiation process and not at the beginning.

It is, therefore, rather bewildering that messes Slaughter, West and Cadbury don’t understand the fundamental principles of the UK’s parliamentary constitution. Firstly, there is a separation of powers between the executive, the legislator and the judiciary, which has been established since the dawn of time. The executive makes the day-to–day decisions about running the country, they then request legislative approval, before Parliament provides redress of grievance. And guess what, there is yet no grievance as there has been no deal made yet.

Beyond failing to understand how Parliament functions, the now former shadow cabinet frontbenchers also seem to be under the impression that the electorate does not understand what they voted for last June. They know perfectly well that the Single Market and Customs Union is not free trade, more protectionism on a European scale.  Outside, the UK will not be bound by the Customs Union external quotas and tariff barriers, which in many cases are cripplingly high and restrict fast growing nations from selling their goods and services into mainland Europe. As for the Single Market, the UK is already signed up to all of its rules – making an equivalence agreement the most sensible economic outcome. Although admittedly, it is not beyond the European Commission to let politics override what is best for the European economy.

Earlier this year, the World Bank published its biannual Global Outlook report, which calculated the year-on-year percentage change in GDP to measures economic growth. While the global average growth rate is about 2.7%, India reported 7%. Labour’s Brexit deniers should remember that every attempt to overturn last year’s result, is a vote in favour of what people reje

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