Brexit Litigation in the Court, and Brexit Litigation in the Court of Public Opinion

Every person has the capacity to act intelligently, to consider calmly and to do what is right, so long as they are equipped with the proper tools. The problem is that instead of comprehensive and investigatory news built on facts and a neutral eye, they have been fed shocking and angry tabloid headlines that pander to their basic animalistic predilections for protectionism and tribalism. Instead of being immersed in a culture of intellectualism and willingness to accept progressive change that might benefit them, despite it being alien and overwhelming, they are swaddled by the Kardashians and information within traditional parameters of what seems logical based on outdated notions that were only relevant to a world that has since changed. Instead of having had fostered for them a culture of involvement in civic duty and public discourse, and having responsibility for their society, they are removed and taught only to focus on what they can materially gain. They are bred on a culture of lethargy and apathy toward matters of Government based on ideas that nothing changes and the institutions of state do not represent them, that they are something distinct from the people themselves, when in reality, removing this perception would remove this problem, since the people would realise they can be as involved as they like and they do form an important part of their society.

So, when suddenly a matter of extreme constitutional importance, a matter that affects the future of global geo-political relations, that affects humanity’s culture and the next steps that we take, is thrust upon them, they react as only they could be expected to, having been bottle fed on nonsense and lies and having had their knee-jerk, archaic instincts pandered to. The people have been bred in a culture that wilfully allows them to retreat to comfort and ignorance.

When David Cameron announced that the people would have a direct say over Britain’s membership of the EU, he was not affected by an unusual desire to empower the British people. He was affected by panic over losing power with the rise of UKIP and right wing populism generally. He was affected by fear of the oncoming shift in the political status-quo that he could see on the horizon. He was scared that neoliberalism and globalisation would soon be undermined by the will of the people. And instead of combatting populism, which is an erroneous, knee-jerk and uninformed solution to undeniable problems surrounding immigration specifically, and globalisation generally, as well as the lack of democracy in global institutions, he pandered to it. He chose the tactic of the East German Soviet government, to attempt to appease the people with the illusion of control, hoping that they would then shut up and sit down. But, as in East Germany, it only meant that they grasped the opportunity and rode the wave until it crashed down around their superiors. Because deep down the people know that they want control over their destinies. They simply have not been equipped with the right tools to exercise it with the requisite foresight and understanding.

The people voted to leave, and they expected to leave. They did not expect that their decision would be reviewed by the High Court in the first instance, and now the Supreme Court on appeal. And so we find the first example of the disparity between the law, and the law as reported by the media and by manipulative campaigns. The referendum took place pursuant to the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which the High Court reiterated does not confer a statutory power (as does no other piece of legislation) to give notice of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is not what the people thought. The literature disseminated by the Government of the day told them that their say was final. The decision was reported by the media as one that would be final.

The media, especially the British tabloids, instead of telling the people the true state of the law and the true position of the referendum – never mind giving them a true account of the specificities and complexities of either side of the argument – pandered to their flag-boners and to illusive, chimerical notions of abstract control and tribalism, which in any real sense no longer exist. In doing so, once the decision of the High Court had been handed down, the Daily Mail, the Express and the Sun et al. had set the tone to be able wantonly and without consequence or shame to brand the judges as traitors to their country and usurpers of democracy. The irony is that in actual fact the journalists, owners and editors of these papers are the true traitors to their country and to their countrymen, and their publications actively and maliciously undermine the proper exercise of democracy.

The judges in the High Court, far from deciding on the merits or demerits of Brexit, were deciding on the proper, lawful process according to the British constitution by which it should be brought about. That is, they were deciding whether the Government could ‘trigger’ Article 50 unilaterally using the Queen’s prerogative or whether Parliament is required to vote on the matter. The second irony, then, is that in condemning the judges for deciding that Parliament needs to vote, the papers were impliedly supporting the use of a monarch’s undemocratic executive power and rejecting parliamentary sovereignty, which is the very thing that was being voted for in voting to leave the EU.

The Brexit litigation was reported as if the judges were deciding on Brexit. The legal issues were not communicated properly to the people. You have been lied to from the very start of this referendum by the institutions who owe you a duty to equip you with ample and correct informational tools to be able to form a constructive and responsible part of this society.

The tabloids’ treatment of the Brexit litigation goes far beyond issues of shoddy journalism. It strikes at the very heart of our political and legal structures. The law is given legitimacy through consent. We all impliedly, by not revolting, consent to the legal structures in place and the laws that mediate our social relations. This is important because without consent a legal and political system is not legitimate and it then has one of two recourses. One, it breaks up at the behest of the people and a new system is formed. Two, and far more likely, those responsible for its continuation and who benefit from that continuation use coercion to keep it in place. Behind every law and every institution of state is the inference of force. That is what gives a Government made up of thousands of people power over millions of people. And this is fine, since for the most part we all impliedly agree that the legal system, the constitution and the political framework work in our favour and that their use of force will be legitimate because it will only be used in the event of someone or something breaching the social contract, and that it will be used for the good of the majority.

Therefore, when we get to a state of affairs in which an unrestrained media can demonise members of the most evolved judiciary on the planet and undermine their very position as arbiters of the law and checks on Government power by deliberately mis-communicating that law and said judiciary’s actions, we risk a breakdown in the social contract and the consent by which we are all governed.

Rest assured, the judiciary is exercising its constitutional duty. It is deliberating on the law and on the law alone. It is not deciding whether Brexit should happen. At the very worst it is deciding whether Parliament should decide whether Brexit should happen. And Parliament is made up of MPs who are your representatives, who you elected. Do not take my word for it though, read the summary of the case in the High Court. Before you take a position on the basis of the propagation of massive media corporations, think to yourself firstly, why are they shouting so loudly? It is always the case that those who shout loudest are either the weakest or the most scared. The media is both, because the people are the ones with ultimate power; all you have to do is equip yourself.

Advertisements

Pulling out is effective 73-96% of the time, so how effective could it be for Britain?

The concentric circles of society go outwards, more or less, as follows: the individual at the centre, who then hopefully forms part of a family (not necessarily nuclear), the cornerstone of society, multiple of which come together to form first the tribe, then later the city or region or province, which collectivise under one administration in the nation state and, after the nation state, the intra-national super-state – a cohesive collection of individual countries under one administration. Eventually, it seems logical to conclude, the one world government follows, notwithstanding the logistical practicality of such an undertaking.

 

Since 1973, we in Britain have been wrestling with the transition from independent nation state to being part of a collection of countries that together increasingly form something with some of the trappings of the intra-national super-state. And now, 43 years after our tried accession into the EU, we the British people are being given the say on whether or not we remain a part of this intra-national bureaucratic-commercial collective, or whether we pull out and hope there are no nasty consequences 9 months down the line.

 

For something that represents such a fundamental turning point, not only in the British trajectory, but in that of the world – for if we reject political globalisation in this manner, what does it mean for everyone else? – the debate has been thoroughly mediocre.

 

‘Britain stronger in Europe’ say on their website that “almost half of everything we sell to the rest of the world we sell to Europe – and we get an average of £24 billion of investment in Britain per year from Europe”. In retort ‘Get Britain out’, on their website, state firmly in rebuttal that “less than 5% of UK businesses trade directly with the EU” and that “EU Regulations cost the UK economy a staggering £33.3 billion per year”. The IN campaign note that the Confederation of British Industry estimates that “3 million jobs in Britain are linked to trade with the rest of Europe” while the Outies say these jobs aren’t reliant on EU membership and “not 1 job is at risk from Brexit”. And back and forth and back forth it goes ad infinitum.

 

So how can the suits at either side of this tug of war both be so assured of facts in direct contradiction to each other? Well, it’s because either side uses different figures from different sources using different methods of arriving at their figures. Each side will quote the CBI, for instance, until it doesn’t suit them, in which case they’ll ignore what the CBI says and go with another source. Both the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury publish figures for the same things, and both of them differ.

 

The debate is mediocre at best, and insulting at worst. When the opposing campaigners trot out their tired slogans on leaflets and website front pages – “Protect out heritage, control our borders, believe in Britain” versus the admittedly less catchy “The government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK” – they are banking on you looking no further. They are banking on you taking their and only their numerical milk and honey or dark numerical water of the River Styx, depending on the strategy.

 

The integrationists and isolationists are just as grasping when it comes to celebrity endorsements. In October 2015 the Innies opened their campaign by wheeling out June Sarpong, some TV head with an adorable gap in her front teeth but who has no qualifications to be waxing lyrical about the EU aside from chatting inane shite on Loose Women. Similarly, Nigel Farage was delighted when national treasure Michael Cain came out in favour of coming out. Yeah, he’s really good at telling you how many people know his name in a cockney accent but what relevance is it what he thinks?

 

For every figure on one side, there is a different figure on the other. For every claim a counter-claim. And why? Because neither side knows what’ll happen. There is no truth in this debate, there is no right and there is no wrong. Neither side can tell you what money we’ll lose and what we’ll win, who’ll get fired and who won’t, which countries will desert us and which won’t should we leave or not leave. All we can know for certain is the amount of money the EU costs us and how much it makes us right now.

 

But even that we don’t really know. For instance, ‘Full Fact’ state that our membership of the EU isn’t “nearly £20 billion” a year as ‘Vote Leave’ like to regurgitate. This is because we get a £5 billion rebate immediately on our payment, as well as £4 billion being spent by the EU on British farmers and poorer regions in the UK, and upwards of £1 billion to the private sector for things like research grants. And this needs to be added to the money we get back in trade, investments and jobs, for which it’s “far harder to be sure about how much comes back in benefits”.

 

The House of Common Library has said in a briefing paper of February 2016 “there is no definitive study of the economic impact of the UK’s EU membership or the costs and benefits of withdrawal. Many of the costs and benefits are subjective or intangible and a host of assumptions must be made to reach an estimate. If the UK were to remain in a reformed EU, assumptions would need to be made about what the reforms might be. Any estimate of the effects of withdrawal will be highly sensitive to such assumptions.” So don’t listen to that bellend at your dinner party when he pipes up with a figure he’s learned by rote from either some liberal think piece or the lungs of Farage, because he doesn’t have a clue. He’s regurgitating what seems plausible to reinforce an opinion he probably held anyway but was insecure about because he had no factual way of validating or justifying it.

 

The underwhelming nature of the debate is compounded by the fact that all parties involved are trying their hardest to reduce a quandary of major constitutional and politico-philosophical significance down to paltry numbers and un-nourishing sound bites.

 

Gideon has said that leaving the EU will effectively leave every British household £4,300 per year worse off. But do you really think it would? Do you really think leaving the EU will mean you have £4,300 less coming into your bank account? Inversely similarly, Leave.EU say we would be £933 better off if we left. Again, do you think you’ll see a grand more pop up on your statement each year once we leave? Do you think these figures that get tossed around mean anything? They don’t. Each side is trying to tell the future and the fact is they can’t. The only purpose these figures serve is for people to quote in an effort to sound like they’ve put some thought into the question of Brexit.

 

But ‘Brexit question-mark’ is a question far more meaningful than ghostly numbers. And the majority of people know this, really. The basic impetus for leaving seems to be lust for sovereignty lost. UKIP and the right promise control of our borders, an end to “open door” immigration – the benefits and costs of which are hotly debated, as is whether or not leaving the EU will do anything to it. They also promise that no more will 75% of our laws be made in Brussels. It should be noted that this statistic is another illusory number that is by no means true. Business for Britain created a “definitive” study in which they found that “EU rules account for 65% of UK law” (I guess they don’t realise that there is no such thing as UK law). While they do admit that “not every EU regulation will impact Britain[,] such as rules on olive and tobacco growing”, the number is still misleading. Some measures take into account legislation with only a passing reference to the EU. However, a large chunk – anywhere between 15% and 50% – of laws around the UK have Brussels’ fingerprints on them, but the majority of those laws are regulations that you never even notice anyway, or they are Directives that force our government to create legislation, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996, which codifies a minimum period of maternity leave and notice, and the Employment Relations Act 1999, which covers things like collective bargaining: legislation that wholly protects you, the worker.

 

But the right’s appeal to sovereignty is muddied and confused. We are the descendants of warring barbarians and proud Saxons; the British are brawlers, imperialists. We are the sons and daughters of an Empire over which the sun never set. We are the saviours of Europe – the scrappy, innovative fighters. We are the moneymen of the world, the bankers and shopkeepers and the stoic council estate tenants. It is hard to reconcile such a proud heritage and such a powerful personality with horror stories of a Britain now the cowed Bulldog under the shadow of the mighty Alsatian’s dripping fangs.

 

If you define individual sovereignty as pertaining to your self-determination, your power over your reality, with the minimum of interference from third parties, then leaving the EU won’t grant you the individual sovereignty you think it will. It is Theresa May seeking greater powers to watch your social media activity and your phone calls through her Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. It is the Tories cutting disability benefits, not only robbing the wheelchair-bound of their right to self-determination through a lack of means, but so too, perhaps, the right to any meaningful life at all. As for national sovereignty – the independence and self-determination of the nation as a whole, not subject to “Brussels’ bureaucrats” – this vision is out-dated. It forgets one thing – the world has changed. Sovereignty is not sovereignty in the way it used to be. Not being part of a political trading bloc does not automatically render Britain an independent, sovereign nation again. In this age of globalisation, one cannot equate sovereignty with isolationism. In the age of lobbying and massive multinational corporate interests, of Facebook getting away with paying £4,327 in corporation tax and Google striking a ‘deal’ and paying £130 million settlement to HMRC, the concept of self-governance is wobbly.

 

Meanwhile, those on the left of an outward persuasion charge the EU with being an undemocratic institution run by unelected bureaucrats. It is a charge hard to deny. According to Europa.eu, it is the European Commission (composed of 28 nominated commissioners) that proposes and enforces legislation “in the general interest of the EU”. Albeit, said legislation has to be passed by the European Parliament, which is composed of directly elected MEPs, but they can only vote “yes” or “no” or to “amend” legislation. The Council of the European Union is the second chamber of the European Parliament, made up of ministers sent from the member states depending on the area of policy who we haven’t elected to act in such a capacity (but… y’know… we didn’t elect the House of Lords either). As well, the Council of Europe – I guess the guy in charge of naming things took a day off when it came to those two bodies – is made up of heads of state of each member state and decides the EU’s overall policy and direction, and negotiates on difficult and sensitive areas of EU policy.

 

So the EU might be relatively undemocratic, but it would be hard to have an international organisation, governing aspects of the lives of around 508 million people, be entirely democratic. Thus far, the EU acts in the best interests of its population. The problem comes, one supposes, when it begins not to, since if there is one solid lesson history has taught us, it is that we can never ever rely on the openness, truthfulness and perennial honesty of those governing us.

 

At home, if the machinations of Parliament become far too audaciously mendacious and corrupt for us merely to stand on the sidelines watching them on the BBC, we can take to the streets. Although 60 million people is a lot, they can still unite within the bounds of one nation state rather effectively against their Government should the need arise. The suffragette movement shows this, as do the Police Strikes of 1918-1919. Can we guarantee that we can retain such self-representation and self-determination through direct action on such a grand scale as that spanning 28 countries? Well, the current massive protests against the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership are putting that issue to the test.

 

The furore surrounding the utter bastardry that is TTIP is something that should figure into your Brexit calculations. Although it is ostensibly an EU-driven trade agreement, leaving the EU doesn’t guarantee its stymying. In fact, it might speed it up. Yannis Varoufakis, the unfortunate but immensely qualified and immensely intelligent economist and previous Greek Finance Minister said in an interview with Owen Jones that it is only as a collusive, entire whole united across the countries of Europe that we can stop TTIP. Add to this that it was Cameron’s government that actually demanded one of the most controversial and destructive aspects of TTIP – the inclusion of investor-state arbitration dispute clauses in trade agreements. These basically give private corporations the power to sue countries if they find their local laws – laws that are there for the protection of the people – to get in the way of their profit margins. This isn’t some far off nightmare, it’s already happening – look to Australia, Canada and Argentina.

 

The reality of the EU referendum is that where it matters, it is largely meaningless. Neoliberalism is still our serenading song, the same multi-national corporations hold the power, the same bankers rip us off, the same Governments trade the will of the people for the will of the financial sector and the same lands get fracked. Really, reformation of our institutions of power is what’s needed, not deciding whether they break apart or not.

 

If you want to cease our immigration obligations under the Schengen agreement and bring all legislative power back to Parliament and the parties in control, and you don’t want undemocratic, out of sight, multi-national institutions making decisions that could affect your small business, then I suggest you vote out. But if you want to be sure your Easyjet flight to Benidorm will stay cheap and passport control simple, and you want to ensure Vodafone don’t up their charges when you’re in Crete, and you reject isolationism, then I suggest you vote to stay in. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, but remember, the result of this referendum is piss in the wind without anything to follow it.