5 things the press got wrong on the Article 50 judgement

by Charlie Mitchell | 04.11.2016

After three High Court judges ruled on Thursday that MPs must be given a say on triggering Article 50, the reaction of the tabloid press has been savage. On top of that, they got it wrong on several counts.

Here are five misleading remarks:

1. The Express asked: “A government does not need to get the approval of MPs before declaring war on a foreign aggressor – so why should it need their approval before declaring independence from the dictatorship of a foreign bureaucracy?”. But a core principle of parliamentary sovereignty is that the government cannot use its executive powers to override legislation enacted by Parliament – i.e. domestic law. In this case, the government attempted to use prerogative powers and the High Court found that “if notice is given under Article 50 it will inevitably have the effect of changing domestic law”. Declaring war on a foreign aggressor, by contrast, does not change domestic law.

2. The Daily Mail headline called the judges “Enemies of the people” who had “declared war on democracy”. Yet, British democracy is also underpinned by rule of law, which is being interpreted by the judges based on hearing both sides of the case as well as their interpretation of existing law. Meanwhile,  The argument that giving elected MPs a say on Article 50 is ‘undemocratic’ is faulty. UKIP’s Nigel Farage tweeted “I worry that a betrayal may be near at hand”, but in October 2015 he wrote in the Daily Telegraph of his pride for a Britain that “makes its own laws in our own sovereign Parliament”. Brexiteers who fought to uphold British sovereignty seem to have changed their tune.

3. Pro-Brexit newspapers say the judgement goes against the referendum result. But the judgement doesn’t necessarily mean MPs will vote against triggering Article 50, or try to block Brexit, as the Telegraph fears. Although Nicola Sturgeon has suggested Scottish National Party MPs will vote against it – as their constituents did – most Remain MPs do not question the result of a democratic referendum, but rather the prime minister’s secretive strategy since then. The Conservative Party manifesto promised an EU referendum and continued membership of the Single Market. MPs want to be able to scrutinise the government’s plan on the type of Brexit we pursue.  

4. According to the Express, the prime minister could call an early general election in the spring. At stake will be the issue of “who decides if we leave the EU, the people or Parliament?” This wrongly implies an election would allow the prime minister to trigger article 50 without parliamentary approval. In fact, if the government’s Supreme Court appeal is unsuccessful, MPs will have a say on article 50 even after a general election.

This week’s ruling also empowers the House of Lords – which would be unaffected by a general election – to examine the government’s Brexit plan. In theory, the Lords could hold up the government’s plan, although they are unlikely to do so.

5. According to the Express, Nigel Farage said: “I now fear that every attempt will be made to block or delay the triggering of Article 50”. But delays could also work in Britain’s favour during the upcoming EU negotiations. The French and German elections – the latter to be held in late 2017 – will overshadow Brexit talks with the EU. Triggering Article 50 after these elections could hand Britain a better deal, as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said.

Overall the tabloid reaction has been vitriolic, exemplified by the Mail’s reference to a judge’s sexual orientation, and the Express’ apparent call to arms: “Rise up people of Britain and fight, fight, fight”.

The Express front page headline “We must get out of the EU” is hyperbolic. The battle over parliamentary scrutiny is not a battle between In or Out, as the Brexit press has tried to characterise it – that was dealt with by the referendum. Rather it is a battle between those who want a swift, hard Brexit without parliamentary scrutiny and those who favour a soft, considered Brexit.

The date of the court ruling was corrected to Thursday on November 6

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    Edited by Yojana Sharma

    12 Responses to “5 things the press got wrong on the Article 50 judgement”

    • Well done Gena Miller for having nailed the essential doublespeak of the folk who called for the restoration of Parliamentary sovereignty only to label the justice system the enemy when it upheld Parliamentary sovereignty in practice.

      Remind me somebody – am I right in thinking that on the eve of the Referendum vote, Farage declared to the BBC that he wouldn’t accept anything but an overwhelming vote in favour of Remain? Of course, I am paraphrasing.

    • I think we do need parliamentary approval to go to war. Otherwise Tony Blair would not have needed to mislead Parliament over Iraq.

    • The Daily Express and the Daily Mail are the two most obnoxious newspapers in this country. At times they have put The Suns tabloid journalism into the shade. They promote division, they promote sexism, they provoke violence and civil unrest, surely these papers should face legal action against them. Yes we need a free press in this country, something that to date has been relatively good, but now some of the press are verging on becoming political mouthpieces to some very far right and dangerous people.

      The Brexiteers wanted out of EU, they cited (mainly) our Parliamentary Sovereignty, to take back control as their reason. That sovereignty and control is for Parliament and democracy, not for a dictatorship or power and say to be given to only a chosen few (Brexiteers) that is not democracy nor is it taking sovereign control, it is a blank rule book for a fascist state!

    • There is still a great deal of rubbished spread about the referendum. The majority was less than four percent. The leave vote was less than thirty eight percent of the electorate. So at best it shows the British people were fairly evenly split. Given the way in which public opinion has changed since the vote it is likely that brexiteers are now in the minority, but be that as it may our people are more or less evenly split and our nation can now only become the United Kingdom by compromise. Neither side can have everything they want. A compromise would would seem to be leave the EU but remain a member of the sigle market and the customs union. Both sides would hate this is it’s probably about right.
      Immigration issues can easily be resolved by having a recidencia system to that of Spain. It would be a better system to that we have in place and could be applied to all immigrants EU or otherwise.
      We should lobby all Mps to place ammendments in place to any bill to trigger article 50. Only in this way can this nation be pulled together, both sides would hate it but at least they would be United and there would be a way forward.

    • It is increasingly clear that having secured a leave vote by pure deceipt and playing the xenophobia card, the Brexit brigade will now use any dirty trick to hold on to the unworkable result.

      The result of a referendum is not in the same category as the result of a referendum. The former can be undone every 5 years.

      Brexit is being foisted on the young people of the UK – who roundly rejected it – by a group of their elders who will be long dead by the time the full disastrous impact is felt.

      A second vote on the actual terms of any deal is the only intellectually defensible approach.

      And if the Brexiteers are still in the majority when we know what we are voting for, what do they have to fear?

    • ”UKIP’s Nigel Farage tweeted “I worry that a betrayal may be near at hand”, but in October 2015 he wrote in the Daily Telegraph of his pride for a Britain that “makes its own laws in our own sovereign Parliament”. Brexiteers who fought to uphold British sovereignty seem to have changed their tune.”

      Exactly!!! Farage has a very schizophrenic approach to all this. On the Andrew Marr Show this morning he sat next to Gina Miller (who he dared call a ”loaded elite”, has he seen his own bank balance lately and those millionaire ukip donors?).

      Miller quite rightly said Brexiters wanted parliament to be sovereign, and now they’ve got it. Farage then said ”the British people should be sovereign”. But then, does parliament not represent the people? If not, why the heck have elected MP’s? Indeed, why hold elections? In Farage’s world, would he want everything else such as health, education, law & order, defence, transport and foreign policy decided on via endless referenda? Does he really want complex issues decided on by an X on a ballot paper? We’ve seen where that has gotten us!

    • Firstly, a referendum is not a trigger in itself! It is not a legally binding obligation. Parliment is bot legally bound tonact upon it. Although in todays climate, it would probably be a mistake and likely to spawn disruptive action by a large number of citizens.

      It is irrelevant of scotland or any other area voting a larger number wanting to stay in! It was an individual vote. Scotland did not vote to stay in, just coincidently more people in Scotland would have preferred to remain. There is too much moaning, young people wanted to stay in, it was the elderly that wanted to exit etc. I am mid 40’s and i would trust the vote of an older person who experienced our nation outside the EU over the vote of gullible mere kids with no experience! Most young voters have no idea how the world works and do not grasp the simplest of conepts! Case in point, tv newspapers and most media outlets interviewed young voters who insisted it was a disaster because we will have no trade in Europe, we would go to war with Europe, we will all be in poverty if we exit the EU.

      This is not the way the world works!!! Get a grip kiddies, listen and respect your elders, they do know more than you!

      • An Interesting comment Shaun, is what you are really saying is that it was the young that saw through the leave crowd’s lies and propaganda and the older more experienced who were taken in by it? Perhaps the more elderly of us were looking forward to that £350,000,000 a week that was going to the NHS to keep us comfortable in our dotage. If you look at the ownership of much of British Industry you will see it is foreign owned. The problem for young people is that they realise that these foreign owners can move industries from one country to another very quickly. GM pulls out of Mersyside and expands its car plant in Poland, OOP’s there goes my job. And yes, we will still have trade with Europe but probably on worse terms than we have now.

    • I find it very interesting that little attention has been paid to comments by the likes of Merkel and Obama! Before the vote we would be last in the queue for trade negotiations with the US. Merkel making suggestions of penalties etc. After the vote, we went right to the front of the US trade queue according to the president. Meekel still wants to sell us German cars! Not a strong negotiating position Miss Merkel!!!

      I expect the Danish will be keen to continue to sell 40% of their pork production still? And most of the countries who sell us their products will be keen to do so?

      It is absurd to keep saying it is a disaster and we will fail before we have even imvoked Article 50, absolute madness!!!

    • Shaun, I suggest you look at the problems that are arising in two important sectors of British Industry, Aerospace and Universities. Both are in despair over the leave vote. By the way about 6% of BMW’s production comes to the UK. That can be easily absorbed by the other countries they sell into.

      What is your estimate of the cost to replace our membership of the European Aviation Safety Authority when we leave the EU? We can probably stay an associate member but, surprise, surprise we will have to pay for our membership. Perhaps it can come out of Boris’s mythical £350,000,000 a week?

    • William L There are currently 32 European countries in the EASA not just the ones in the EU so we would remain as we are, Members.
      Also you go on about the £350million being fictitious or going into the NHS, I don’t believe it a) to be fictitious or more importantly b) never expected ALL of that figure to go into the NHS and Nowhere did I ever read it was.. just Lets fund the NHS properly, If foreign employers OWN the major businesses they could move out of the UK regardless, all it would need is for it to be cheaper to do so not whether or not we are in the EU, Finally can you put up next weeks lottery numbers as your crystal ball seems to know all that will happen in the future. It really is a shame you cannot see that lies and fear were used by both sides and it was up to you to determine the truth as you saw it. without the need to lecture others.