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Back to school!
02 Sep, 2019

Chair's message to members - 2 September 2019


Dear Member or Supporter

School is back, Parliament is back tomorrow. It's La Rentrée in Eurospeak. I hope that you enjoyed your summer break - albeit that re-entry into normal life came with a constitutional crash.


A low point in politics

The real issue with the prorogation scandal is the cloak of respectability. True, it's been an extraordinarily long session. True, the new government should set out its stall in a Queen's Speech in a new session. True, there is always a prorogation before a Queen's Speech. True, once you factor in that there was going to be a party conference recess (though there had been moves to cancel or curtail that), it is not that much longer than usual. All true.

And all totally irrelevant. No-one believes that is why Parliament is being prorogued. But the cloak of normality makes it easier for people to accept what has happened. And once you accept one anti-democratic act it is easier to accept the next; indeed it becomes harder to resist because that would mean revisiting your earlier decision.

The Cabinet Ministers who spoke during the leadership campaign against prorogation - to be fair a prorogation that extended over the Brexit date - and that have not resigned over this slightly different device are going along with an anti-democratic act that certainly they had opposed in spirit.

European history of the twentieth century does not suggest a happy ending when either the spirit or the letter of constitutions is disregarded. It is a sign of the radicalisation of British politics that populist Brexit has brought. Whether Brexit is taken forward by its supporters on the right or the left, it is that radicalisation that is the danger even more than the intensely damaging policy itself. 


High politics

Is there room for optimism? Last Tuesday's meeting of opposition politicians seems to have been a step in the right direction. 

A government of national unity was always improbable when the country is divided half and half. Nor is there much point in substituting one pro-Brexit Prime Minister for another. 

That the opposition MPs reached any sort of agreement was surprising given the wildly different and unhelpfully overlapping objectives of the people in the room. Some were Remainers who wished to stop Brexit. Some were Brexiters who wished to prevent No-Deal and leave with a deal. One mainly wished to be Prime Minister. For several participants that would be worse than a No-Deal Brexit.

So the first choice for action - legislation for an extension without agreement on what it should be used for - is as much as one could hope for.

The main practical effect of the prorogation is not so much the loss of a small number of sitting days. It is that non-Government bills fall at the end of the session. There is very little time for a bill to pass through all its stages in both Houses of Parliament before prorogation. So we have to hope that MPs - and peers - will move quickly.

In any event. we could waste the next extension as we have wasted the past two. The key is not just to obtain the time but to use it well. That means a referendum. That in turn determines how long the extension should be.

A general election cannot resolve Brexit because it decides who should form the government, not the answer to a single policy question.  The distortions of the voting system hardly make for clarity. There is no guarantee that all parties would have coherent platforms on Brexit. To decide whether to go ahead with Brexit or stop it needs a referendum and MPs should set it up directly, not via a general election as Jeremy Corbyn believes.


Personal campaign opportunities

So, if you are asking yourself now that we are all back what you should do to help the UK to stay in the EU my first suggestion would be to write to your MP and the party leaders urging them not just to support the measures to extend the Article 50 period but also to make sure that we use the time for a referendum.

Then please sign the Parliamentary petition against prorogation, if you have not already done so. 

I suggest that you support the Scottish court case where Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project is arguing that No-Deal would be unlawful without specific Parliamentary authorisation as the Government does not have the constitutional power to reduce individuals’ rights. It follows that Parliament may not be circumvented by prorogation. The case is fully funded for this stage. But they expect the case quickly to go to appeal and have exceptionally asked for funding now to be ready for that inevitable appeal. You can also support the court case brought by Gina Miller, which has been joined by Sir John Major.

We publish a list of ideas for campaigning here. Your local campaign body will be ramping up activity and on the look-out for new activists so do please make contact with them. We are planning to make more use of our volunteers and you can join our growing band of activist volunteers.

On Monday 7 October we will hold the AGM of London4Europe. An announcement and an invitation to sign up will go out this week. One of its tasks will be to elect a new Committee structure to take London4Europe forward as we become more active in campaigning in the referendum itself using our pool of volunteers.  All members and supporters are welcome to attend the AGM; however, only paid-up members of the European Movement may stand for election and vote in elections. You can join the EM here; if your membership has lapsed (EM do not routinely send out subscription reminders) you can renew it here.





This e-mail sets out the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of London4Europe.

Twitter: @London4Europe