MPs should vote for the Article 50 Bill to respect the sovereignty of the British people

MPs should vote for the Article 50 Bill to respect the sovereignty of the British people

Every year at the State Opening of Parliament, the great entrance door to the Commons Chamber is slammed shut in the face of Black Rod as he approaches from the House of Lords. This dramatic scene stems from that famous occasion when His Majesty King Charles I entered the place with the intention of arresting honourable members. The annual ceremony represents the central feature of the British constitution – that power should reside in the elected Commons and not with the Sovereign – and it is celebrated and broadcast to the world with pride.

But there is a more subtle and sacred occasion that takes place, now, every five years. It takes place in thousands of polling booths up and down the land. Great and common people go in and make their mark upon a ballot which determines who is chosen from among them to command the power in the land by serving in the House of Commons. These elections are even more crucial to the maintenance of our constitution. It is in that most personal experience of democracy – namely voting – where parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary democracy is created and handed to a chosen candidate. The elected candidate is then sent to Parliament to represent their constituents and the nation using his or her best judgment.

Last year, an overwhelming majority of members of the House of Commons took the decision to abdicate their responsibilities given to them by the people on one particular issue – that of our membership of the European Union. They decided to vote for a referendum and to allow ordinary citizens to vote, based on their own judgment. Parliamentarians gave back to the people the sovereignty the people had given them. The good people of the United Kingdom then voted to leave the European Union by a majority and the Government promised that it would implement the decision of the people. A majority of Members of the House of Commons have said they will accept the outcome of the referendum. In that spirit, the electors of this country expect Members of Parliament to vote for Article 50 so that the Government can begin the process of implementing the sovereign will of the people.

It is an interesting paradox that a number of those Members of Parliament who voted for a referendum are now refusing to vote to implement its outcome. Members of Parliament were not misled or confused when they voted for a referendum. It was always possible that the United Kingdom could vote to leave, just as it was possible that we might vote to remain. An MP cannot refuse to vote for the Article 50 Bill simply because the referendum result was not the one that he or she preferred. Such a stance is extraordinary and if a Member is so inclined to chop and change their views on such important matters, they surely must question whether they ought to sit in Parliament at all.

Parliament is the democratic forum of the United Kingdom and so must represent the expressed and collective wishes of the people of the United Kingdom. There are some Members of Parliament who have stated that they will vote against the Article 50 bill. I respect those Members whose deeply held conviction is that the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union, which day by day resembles in all it does the nature and being of a state. Some do strongly believe in a United Federal States of Europe, but the British people do not. Those Members must vote with their conscience. But surely they must question why they wish to remain as Members of a sovereign Parliament if they are intent on voting against the very Bill that will make Parliament sovereign again?

When Parliament voted to enter the Common Market, our elected representatives handed over to Brussels the parliamentary sovereignty given to them by the people. They had no right to do so as that power was never their own to hand away. At every election, parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary democracy is handed back to the people. For forty it years it has not been whole and intact when handed back. By voting for Article 50, Members will be giving the Prime Minister and the Government the power to reclaim what has been lost. It is the wish and will of the British people that their Parliament is sovereign, whole and intact. In 2020, for the first time in forty years, Parliament will be hallowed and great again and the doors will have been slammed against the institutions of Brussels.