DEBUG: blog_post
Advocates of revocation need a plan
09 Jun, 2019

You do wish to avoid that special place in hell, don’t you?

London4Europe Committee Member and former senior civil servant Michael Romberg says that those who wish to argue for revocation without a referendum need to use the time between now and October to devise and implement a plan for carrying it out safely.


The comfort of Revocation

Since we are wasting the time of the extension it looks as though in October we will find ourselves where we had been in March.

Many Remainers comfort themselves by saying that there is no majority amongst MPs for No-Deal. And that we can always just revoke the Article 50 notification.

My question to those who advocate revocation without a prior referendum is: what is your plan?


Not the plan to get MPs to vote for Revocation

That will be hard enough. The two motions calling for revocation to avoid no-deal were lost heavily: 293:184 on 27 March 2019 and 292:191 on 1 April 2019.

The Institute for Government has set out how there is no obvious Parliamentary mechanism to prevent no deal. The same applies in practice to obtaining revocation.

But we also learned in 2016 that getting people to vote for something is the easy bit. Making it happen is rather more problematic.

And we know - because Donald Tusk told us - where those go who embark on risky projects without even the sketch of a plan for carrying them out safely.


The Revocation dilemma: is your Revocation unequivocal?

In order to be valid revocation must be in an “unequivocal and unconditional manner”. That means “that the purpose of that revocation is to confirm the EU membership of the Member State concerned …, and that revocation brings the withdrawal procedure to an end.”

So, an announcement that we are pausing Brexit, that we will have another referendum and only proceed with Brexit if there is a majority for it, that we will have a commission of experts to look at Brexit, a citizen's assembly - anything that says that this Brexit process might continue, will not be a valid revocation.

Those who say that Brussels will turn a blind eye need to ask themselves whether they are sure that Nigel Farage MEP really will not take the UK to the ECJ to have the apparent revocation rendered void. The consequences of losing that ECJ case would be that we would be leaving under No-Deal - perhaps retrospectively depending on when the court ruled.

I'm no lawyer. But your plan needs to have had enough confirmation from EU and international law specialists that it is 100% ECJ-proof. That your plan is probably OK on the balance of probabilities is not good enough for a decision of such consequence. 


The Revocation dilemma: is your Revocation acceptable to the public?

The more that you say "Brexit just stops" the less acceptable Revocation is to Leavers. 

In 2016, Leave won the referendum. Voters were told that their decision would be "implemented". In 2017, both main parties campaigned on pro-Brexit manifestos and won 88% of the vote.

Part at least of the Leave vote was resentment at the metropolitan elite not listening to them. Even a second referendum is routinely described by Leavers as a "betrayal" (it’s not, of course).

So, how are you going to make revocation acceptable to the half of the country who wish to Leave and the great chunk of Remainers who believe that the 2016 referendum may not just be set aside?

To point to the happiness of Remainers is jejune. It is the treatment of losers that defines a democracy. Losers accept an end-result if they believe that the process had been fair.

Just ignoring the 2016 result and everything that has happened since - the naive and damaging appeal of Professor Grayling that so many Remainers found so comforting in 2016 and 2017 - will do real damage to our democracy. Who knows what the consequences will be. For my part, I do not wish to find out.


Conclusion: if you place your faith in Revocation you need a plan now

So if you are going to place your faith in revocation as the solution, you need to press those advocating it to come up with a plan that resolves the dilemma: absolute enough to be legally valid; and yet acceptable to Leavers.

There are only four months to October. So if there is a plan it needs to be implemented now so that even the Daily Express is calling for revocation by then.


Fortunately we have a plan: the Referendum on the Terms

The referendum on the terms – the People’s Vote - would give political authority to a decision to withdraw the article 50 notification – or, indeed, to leave.

We need to keep on setting out the democratic legitimacy argument for a referendum. In 2016 Leave had no plan. No-one takes a project from idea to implementation without a review of the plan. Who better to undertake that review than the electorate who launched the process?



The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.