High Court rules “Thinking Allowed” in Brexit debate, Press Appalled.


It’s official, Britain’s now a country suspicious of nuanced argument – a post-fact society. The High Court’s ruling on triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the starting gun for our exit from the EU, has caused moral outrage in the popular press. The judiciary dared to side with a concerned (and whisper it quietly, educated) citizen, Gina Miller, respecting the efforts of her and her lawyers to understand and interpret the law of the land. Contrast this with the increasingly belligerent and thought terminating mass of Leave voters; 17.4 million, who, just like the SNP in Scotland, now presume to speak for all of the people, just as I’ve presumed to speak for all of them.

The Mail was one of many rags incandescent that Miller, born in Guyana, which isn’t even in Britain, if you can believe the fucking cheek of it, had dared to challenge the Prime Minister’s naked attempt at political sleight of hand. May, with a wink and a grin, argued the referendum result gave her the authority to bypass Parliament and trigger the treaty’s get out clause, using enabling powers wrestled from the Crown; you know, the lever the Monarch used to pull when enacting God’s Will, that most divine instrument of mass democracy.

But as our terminal rights as EU citizens are guaranteed by an act of parliament, namely the 1972 European Communities Act, one can’t, to paraphrase the great philosopher Sean Bean, simply remove them using the Queen’s authority. You may remember we fought a bloody civil war over principles like this; the idea that Parliament was sovereign, and it should decide, as a law making body, representative of we the people, what we do or don’t enjoy. In fact, the Guardian pointed out that the legal precedent in question stretched back all the way to 1297 and a ruling against Henry IV, who tried to implement a blanket ban on merchants’ rights to work in London.

As UKIP and their ilk love Britain’s illustrious history and traditions (bar its post-war immigration policies), one would think they’d be delighted by this judicial history lesson, and affirmation of Parliamentary supremacy. Yet weirdly, Nigel Farage, Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch, and other patriots, saw it as an affront; a finger to the millions who understood, because David Cameron told them so, that their decision would mean an end to all debate on the subject, forever.

That’s right, there’d be no thought, post-referendum; no scrutiny, and certainly no changing of minds, which once upon a time was considered a sign of rude intellectual health. The 16.1m who voted to remain were expected to return to their lattes, gym memberships and Scandinavian boxsets, and close their blow holes. And that went double for their MPs.

You might think it healthy that Miller and her fellow campaigners, some of whom voted for Brexit, cared enough about our constitution to challenge May’s hijacking of Parliament. After all, how many people do you know understand that Bagehot isn’t an urban word meaning “great tits”?  How many pub Brexiters, knocking back a pint of dirty pipes and whining about their Columbian Doctor, have ever taken an independent interest in our great institutions of state?

Miller et al. fought for the principle that now the public’s made its light touch contribution, subjecting that simple, school leaver’s in/out choice to variable levels of scrutiny and understanding, our elected representatives should earn their salaries and thoroughly debate the terms of our departure, crucially reserving the right to vote against it if they didn’t like the direction of travel.

An affront to direct democracy, you say? Well, that’s the problem with referendums isn’t it? They only signal the destination, not the journey. That’s fine if the question is something elementary like choosing a voting system or changing the currency, but leaving the EU is an absurdly complicated business, impacting on every aspect of British life; it touches all our institutions, our economy, our culture, our rights. May, in effect, was saying, “I understand it’s complicated, but we’ve taken our instruction from those who at best were misinformed, at worst, driven by factors that had nothing to do with the cases presented in the campaign, and despite our contempt for these people and our belief that the subtleties of the argument are lost to many of them, we’re going to shamelessly appropriate that vote, recast it as moral authority, and use it to bypass those who would subject our approach to proper scrutiny. In short, the brain trust comprised of me, Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson – a man who actually invoked the Titanic when talking about our successes to come, are handling it. Now go back to sleep and we’ll see you in 2020.”

No one wants Brexit scrutinised, or even debated, least of all Nigel Farage and his retinue, because they quite rightly fear the consequences. You see, it’s just possible that when the terms of our exit are suggested and washed through the parliamentary system, subject to debate, legal opinions, upper house scrutiny, amendments, more debate, more thought, further amendments, more scrutiny, and so on, it may start to look somewhat problematic. It’s even possible that the public, as the reality dawns on them, may start to look at the problem more closely, demanding a general election to have a further right of reply.

Naturally, the “winners” in the Brexit debate are desperate that this doesn’t happen; that docility reigns. Consequently, the Europhobe press, who continue to write for those with a reading age of 11, have moved with rapidity and the panic dial set to the same figure, to quash their invitation to look again, before it gains troublesome momentum. Farage’s sheep, and their media apologists, want to keep it simple, because this both flatters their intellectually wanting conception of the issue, and remains their best chance of achieving a dream built on a boorish identity under threat.

Brexit’s disingenuous intellectuals, who’ve always known that their best chance of achieving a cultural and politically favourable nirvana was to appeal to the laziest instincts of the people, while burying the root causes of their discontentment, have declared war on argument and by extension, fact. The devil’s always been in the detail, but in our new post-fact culture, there’s a sinister new development. The devil’s now committed to denying the detail – neutralising nuance, terminating thought. Lucky for us that Gina Miller cared enough to use her own money to challenge that strategy. Thinking’s won its first post-referendum victory. Let’s hope it’s not the last, for the road ahead is so very long.

Published in: on November 4, 2016 at 15:16  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on corvia and commented:
    Brilliantly summarised!

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