March and make our voice heard – March 25th London

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On Saturday there is a march in London, one that is about principles that go to the heart of the UK’s democracy.

The UK’s democracy is founded on fundamental principles: the sovereignty of parliament, freedom of speech, the right to argue the alternative view among them.

Many diverse groups will be represented in the march; the common element is their opposition to the autocratic, even dictatorial tone coming from Theresa May.

Members of The People’s Challenge will be present to help to make sure that decision-makers inside and outside the UK realise that the Deal/No Deal approach to Brexit being pursued by the Prime Minister is not the only view held by the people of the UK.

It is important that we “Stop the Silence”, the silence the Brexiters and the Government are using to try to stifle democracy and reasoned debate.

We must support all those who have relied on the UK’s tolerant and welcoming attitude to establish their homes in the UK, and those from the UK who have relied on the UK’s word and gone to work with or establish themselves among our European friends.

It must not be forgotten that the rights of UK citizens resident in the UK are also under threat, including the right to work and trade across the EU borders, the right to reciprocal health care in EU countries, including those many popular holiday destinations.

The People’s Challenge will be travelling from far and wide, including, Gibraltar, Wales and France to attend this event.

So we ask you, our supporters, to attend this march and encourage others to do the same so that our voice can be heard clearly and unambiguously.

We will be gathering outside the Dorchester on Park Lane from 10:00 onwards, look for our banner.

Be there or be square!

Booklet front cover

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March on the 25th to make sure our voice is heard.

Dear People’s Challenge supporter,

on the 25th there is a march in London, one that goes beyond the pros and cons of Brexit.
Many diverse groups will be represented in the march; the common element is their opposition to the autocratic, even dictatorial tone coming from Theresa May.

One of the strengths of the UK’s democracy is the tolerance of an alternative argument; a tolerance that no longer exists, according to senior members of this government.
Indeed, the Prime Minister herself has said that those of us who ask the courts to enforce the rule of law “are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it.”

Members of The People’s Challenge will be present to help to make sure that decision-makers inside and outside the UK realise that “The Red Queen” does not speak for the majority anymore, let alone everybody.

The People’s Challenge will be travelling from far and wide, including, Gibraltar, Wales and France to attend this event.

It is important that we “Stop the Silence”, the silence the rabid Brexiters are using to try to stifle democracy and reasoned debate.

We must support all those who have relied on the UK’s tolerant and welcoming attitude to establish their homes in the UK, and those from the UK who have relied on the UK’s word and gone to work with or establish themselves among our European friends.

So we ask you, our supporters, to attend this march and encourage others to do the same so that our voice can be heard clearly and unambiguously.

Here is our banner, be there or be square!

 

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It is not about what we have not yet achieved, it is about those things we have achieved – so far.

This update is about reminding you of the things that you’ve helped to achieve.

It can be hard to remember where we all started from, especially when things seem as if they aren’t going our way. So let’s look back on a few “impossibles” we’ve achieved to date.

We obliged the Government to abandon its attempt to keep its arguments secret prior to the Divisional Court case, which the Government then lost.

The crucial element in the winning of the case in the Divisional Court were the arguments we put forward, showing that only Parliament can authorise the removal of fundamental UK citizenship rights.

Not many people thought we could win. But we did win, and thousands of you backed us by contributing to the huge amount of money raised through Crowd Justice.

If we and others hadn’t taken on the government, Theresa May would have triggered Art. 50 when she walked into No 10.

Having won in the Divisional and then the Supreme Court, we knew that was not going to be the end of it, and we had a plan ready to put into action.

Having kicked off research about the revocability/conditionality of Art 50, we commissioned the “Three Knights Opinion”, written by 5 experts with impeccable credentials. It is fair to say that the “Three Knights Opinion”, together with the skills and savvy of our legal team, was pivotal in influencing the HoL to support the meaningful vote amendment.

Ultimately, the HoC removed the amendment, BUT they cannot remove the “Three Knights Opinion” – it is there to be used to hold the Government to account, we just have to judge when the time is right to do that.

So we must keep our chins, tails and dander up.

The Government has tried and failed four times to “see us off”, we are still here and we’re not out of ammunition!

The conductor is playing her dissonant symphony for now (see the reports of the Commons Brexit Selecte Committee where David Davis admits that the Gov. has NOT done an economic impact assessment of leaving the EU without a deal).

But we are waiting in the wings, ready to act when the time is right.

If it is necessary and when the time is right we will mount or support a challenge to any attempt by the Government to force the results of the negotiations without a meaningful vote on what is in the best interests of the UK.

The Fat Lady is there with us, under strict instructions that there will be no singing until Parliament has decided what is in the best interests of the UK.

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Brexit Bill – the Decisive Moment.

On Monday afternoon MPs will debate the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill again. The Government’s aim is to strip away the EU residents’ and parliamentary approval amendments, then return the Bill to the Lords and press there for it to be passed in its original form, unamended. The Prime Minister hopes to give the Article 50 notification soon afterwards, as soon as Tuesday, according to some reports.

We promised to take urgent action to remind MPs of their constitutional and moral responsibilities ahead of the next Commons debate, so that they can decide which way to vote on an informed basis.

We are taking that action.

First, our legal team prepared a fresh briefing, Seven reasons to stand up for Parliament’s sovereignty. It explains that Parliament is being asked to write a ‘blank cheque’, giving ministers power to withdraw the country from the EU, two years from now, on whatever terms ministers agree, or indeed without any agreement at all and that allowing the Government to proceed in this way would be the most serious abdication of parliamentary sovereignty in living memory. The manner and terms on which we withdraw from the EU will have implications for the rights and interests of every citizen and business, for years to come. Parliament must take responsibility for those decisions. The parliamentary approval amendment asserts parliamentary sovereignty and puts it in its proper place – in black and white on the face of the Bill.

Secondly, 650 briefing packs were prepared for containing an introductory cover sheet, the new briefing, the Three Knights Opinion and a professionally printed version of our plain English ‘Gold Card’ booklet about the citizenship rights at stake in the Brexit negotiations. Every single one of the country’s MPs has been sent one.

Thirdly, over the weekend, the team will send the briefing in electronic form and links to the other materials to all MPs and parliamentary assistants. They will also make contact with key MPs to emphasise its importance and answer questions.

The value our work is adding to the debate over Parliament’s role becoming very clear. The Three Knights Opinion was referred to repeatedly in the Lords debates, and many peers draw on our Lords briefing in their speeches on the parliamentary approval amendment. Labour has said it will fight to keep the amendment in place. And yesterday the House of Commons Library, which produces authoritative, non-partisan briefing papers for MPs, published a special 49 page paper discussing the Three Knights Opinion to inform Monday’s debate.

Our action is effective because of your support. Please do continue to back us at this critical time.

You can take action yourself today, first by making contact with your MP, ideally at a local constituency surgery this weekend, or by e mail, or via their parliamentary assistant by phone on Monday morning (020 7219 3000 and ask to be put through to their office giving your MP’s name). Urge them to read the briefing pack, especially the Seven reasons to stand up for Parliament’s sovereignty briefing. If you can meet with them, download it and take a copy along. Tell them why this issue is so important to you. Some key points are set in the last update.

Secondly, please consider making a further small donation towards our fundraising stretch target via CrowdJustice. This last, big push is time consuming and costly. But whatever happens on Monday, we believe we should do everything in our power to improve the Bill now, at this decisive moment.

Please back the The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control and help our parliamentarians ensure that Parliament has meaningful control over the Brexit process.

 

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Ping pong stage of Brexit Bill about to start, make sure your MP stands up and is counted in the fight for parliamentary democracy

As discussed in previous updates,  the government is determined to overturn the parliamentary approval amendment we backed  as well as the earlier amendment that aims to protect the position of economically  active EU nationals here on the date Article 50 notification is given.

Worse still,  the government is acting very swiftly. The debate to  overturn the amendment is likely to take place next Monday, 13 March in the afternoon  and could well be followed by a further Lords debate the same evening.

We are moving as quickly as we can to brief MPs on why they should resist the attempt to overturn the parliamentary approval amendment.

We also believe the EU nationals amendment should remain in place:

the proposed protection would be both compassionate and pragmatic;

case-by-case decisions on the fate of millions are impractical;

and acknowledging that resident EU nationals should remain here would encourage other EU states to reciprocate with their UK national residents.

In the meantime, however, you can take direct action yourself by making your MP aware of your own views on the parliamentary approval amendment  on the importance of Parliament, not the Government, deciding on your own and your family’s future once the outcome of negotiations with the EU and the 27 remaining  member states  becomes clear.

You can do this by:

  • finding out who your MP is using this link;
  • making direct contact with them or, if they are unavailable, their Parliamentary assistant (whose details you should be able to obtained by calling 020 7219 4272);and
  •  either  setting out your views clearly and concisely in writing and asking them  to reply and commit to  defending Parliamentary sovereignty; or
  • better still,  arranging to see them tomorrow or over the weekend at a local constituency surgery to explain your views in person; and
  • telling them that they can expect to receive a briefing from the People’s Challenge solicitors, Bindmans, and asking them to look out for and read it.

Some key points you might want to consider making are:

  • what is at stake for you and your family in the Brexit process and who you want to be the ultimate decision maker over what happens to you– Parliament or the Government;
  • whether you are concerned about there being no deal agreed with the EU at all, if so, why and what role you would expect Parliament to have at that stage;
  • whether you believe Parliament been given a good reason for surrendering its sovereignty to the Government in relation to the most important constitutional decisions of a generation;
  • whether the Government’s reason for not giving Parliament a meaningful say on the outcome of negotiations – to improve its negotiating hand – makes sense toyou; and
  • what you expect your MP to do now, as your elected representative.

Last, if you have not already done so, please consider making a further donation to back the The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control

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Rock on the Lords, can the Commons Jive – a resounding cheer for the Lords and now, thanks to your support, on to the fight in the Commons .

On Tuesday evening, a record number of peers passed, by a majority of 98, an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal Notification) Bill, giving Parliament a meaningful vote on what happens at the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations. The Bill now says that the power to notify can only be exercised subject to Parliament’s final decision on the outcome of the negotiations.

This amendment is a massive improvement on the Bill in its original form.  As we said in our briefing to peers, there is no good reason why Parliament should not explicitly define in the Bill its sovereignty over the most important constitutional decision of our time – whether we should leave the EU on any terms the Government negotiates or, if no terms can be agreed, what should happen next.

This was a principled position championed time after time during the debate.

The five key points we made about the merits of the amendment were all highlighted.

First, the amendment ensures a meaningful choice for Parliament, not just a “Deal/No Deal” vote on the result of the Government’s negotiations.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering picked up this point and quoted from the “Three Knights Opinion” including:

“I will refer also to an article written by five eminent QCs, including three knights, who gave their opinion on the matter and stated:

‘Meaningful Parliamentary decision-making cannot be achieved by Parliament authorising exit from the European Union, two years in advance, on as yet unknown terms. Equally, it cannot be achieved by a single ‘take it or leave it’ vote at the end of the process’”.

Lord Hailsham added:

“I believe that the proper interpretation of the referendum is this: it is an instruction to the Government to negotiate withdrawal on the best terms they can get. But that raises an absolutely fundamental question to which this proposed new clause is directed. When the negotiations have crystallised and there are agreed terms—or, perhaps, no agreed terms—who determines the way forward: is it the Executive or is it Parliament? That is the old question we have to resolve. In my view, any believer in a democratic state has to say that the authority lies with Parliament.”

Second, the amendment would give Parliament genuine control.

On this, Lord Pannick told the House:

“I find it disappointing that those who most loudly asserted the importance of the sovereignty of Parliament during the referendum campaign are now so alarmed by the prospect of the sovereignty of Parliament at the end of the process.” 

Lord Hailsham added:

“Our sole purpose is to ensure that the outcome—agreed terms or no agreed terms—is subject to the unfettered discretion of Parliament. It is, in our view, Parliament and not the Executive which should be the final arbiter of our country’s future. Ironically, in this sense we stand with the campaigners for Brexit who wanted Parliament to recover control over policy and legislation.”

Third, the amendment would make explicit the need for Parliament’s approval of any agreement and that an “assurance” from the Government that Parliament will be asked to express a view in a consent motion is constitutionally meaningless.

On this Baroness Smith, Labour’s Shadow Leader in the Lords, explained:

“Our priority is Amendment 3, to ensure that Parliament has a meaningful vote and that we maintain parliamentary sovereignty… “ 

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean added:

“We need this in the Bill because the Government have form for bypassing Parliament, and we need to know that that will not happen again.” 

Lord Heseltine said the same:

“This amendment, as the noble Lord so clearly set out, secures in law the Government’s commitment, already made to another place, to ensure that Parliament is the ultimate custodian of our national sovereignty.”

Baroness Jones added:

“During the referendum we voted for taking back control. However, taking back control does not mean giving such a momentous decision for the future of the UK to a tiny cohort of politicians.”

then went on to say:

“People change. Governments change. We cannot be sure that the same people will be in power when this finally happens, so it is important to get a commitment. Parliament has to have scrutiny, and a say in something so incredibly important—a deal that is being thrashed out between the UK and the EU that will affect our future for ever. I also think it is a mockery if the European Parliament gets a vote on this and we do not. That again is not taking back control.”

Fourth, the amendment was clear about what Parliament must decide.

Baroness Altmann put the point in this way:

“I believe it is my duty, given the very serious concerns that I have expressed, to ask the other place to reconsider the need for elected MPs to take responsibility for the future of their constituents. I believe that they must have the final say on the Bill and I want to ask them to think again.”

Last, the amendment would provide greater legal certainty, important because the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU can only be effective for Article 50 purposes if taken in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements.

Baroness Kennedy developed this point very powerfully:

“the Supreme Court’s principal conclusion was that primary legislation is required to authorise the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. I make it clear that this Bill is a notification Bill; it is not an authorisation Bill.”

Baroness Kennedy went on to say:

I also remind the House what the Supreme Court judges said. They said that the reason why this was a matter for Parliament—both the notification and, finally, withdrawal—was because any fundamental change to our laws that inevitably amends or abrogates our individual rights requires the approval of Parliament.”

What now?

The Bill returns to the Commons for further debate focused on the Lords’ amendments.

Our next step is to send every MP a briefing pack and to support key MPs who will influence the debate (anticipated to take place in the first half of next week).

It is an ambitious objective to hold the parliamentary control amendment in place, but it was ambitious to believe we could get this far.

As ever we need your backing. We’ve got this far because of you.

We must never doubt our ability as individuals to gather together and change circumstances.

Please help keep the campaign rolling by making another donation and/or encouraging others to support what we’re doing. This will mean we can continue to make your voices heard and ensure Parliament’s control over all our futures.

For the moment, I’ll let Michael (Lord) Heseltine have the final word on the amendment:

It ensures that Parliament has the critical role in determining the future that we will bequeath to generations of young people.”

Thank you,

Grahame Pigney

Please back the The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control and help our parliamentarians ensure that Parliament has meaningful control over the Brexit process.

 

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Peers vote to give Parliament a meaningful vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

The Lords voted this evening to amend the “Brexit Bill” to give Parliament a meaningful vote on the outcome of negotiations with the EU.

In this the Lords have fulfilled their purpose and duty as the conscience of Parliament and have found the Bill in it’s unamended form not to be in the best interest of the UK and it’s people.

This means that the Bill will go back to the commons with an amendment requiring Theresa May to report back to Parliament on the outcome of the negotiations and for Parliament to take the final decision.

Now the Bill goes back to the HoC, all eyes will be on the Commons to see how they will vote and what their justifications will be for removing or approving the amendment.

Robert Pigney

Please back the The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control and help our parliamentarians ensure that Parliament has meaningful control over the Brexit process.

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Ten reasons why it is not undemocratic for The House of Lords to amend the Article 50 bill

The Great British Moronathon

…or to vote against it if amendments are rejected.

  1. The House of Lords exists as a check on power, and to make governments think again where they may be acting precipitously. Lords have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.
  2. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the government would protect the UK in the single market, which is not the government’s plan.
  3. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election. This is the sort of irrevocable constitutional change that the HoL is there to ask for reflection on.
  4. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.  People change their minds in light of new information and it is childish to hold them to their first answer like gameshow contestants.
  5. Large numbers of people were denied…

View original post 951 more words

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Red Queen once again asserts that she is the law and will not allow Parliament a meaningful vote

The Red Queen strikes again! In a shockingly dismissive statement yesterday Theresa May said that she would not allow Parliament to amend “her” Brexit bill.

The Prime Minister once again flexes her muscles and announces her willingness to overrule Parliament and/or break the law if necessary to force “her” Brexit bill through unamended and the UK out of the EU, whatever the circumstances.

This is the latest piece of populist rhetoric that the Prime Minister has used to put herself above the law and beyond question from anybody, most of all the people’s elected representatives.

One wonders how she intends to deal with the pro-democracy “subversives”, the pro-rule-of-law” enemies of the people” and the pro-EU “traitors” so that the post-Brexit rule of Theresa May can take full form.

It beggars belief that someone who claims to be representing “the will of the people” can announce that the People’s Constitutionally Elected Representatives will not have a proper say about what is in the best interests of the UK.

That someone who claims she wants “British justice in British courts by British judges” can hold the law of the land in such contempt.

That someone who has sworn to represent the best interest of the UK and wherever possible her constituents can endanger those interests for her political convenience.

This is not just about Brexit it is about the fundamentals of the UK’s Democratic Institutions and our Constitutional Law.

Robert Pigney

Please back the The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control and help our parliamentarians ensure that Parliament has meaningful control over the Brexit process.

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We must not lose our faculty to dare

By the end of today we will know exactly how high the House of Lords has set the bar for the House of Commons in terms of sensible amendments to the Brexit Bill and explicitly embedding Parliamentary Sovereignty in the process.

This is not about blocking Brexit, indeed, contrary to what many would have you believe, the Lords cannot block Brexit, it can only ask the Commons to reconsider the Bill.

What it is about is ensuring that our constitutional law is upheld, that our democratic processes are followed and that Parliament is properly informed on the terms of the exit deal, or the absence of such a deal, when deciding the future direction that the UK is to take.

I have said elsewhere that this is not a time to take momentous decisions without knowing the circumstances under which the UK will be leaving the EU. This is reinforced in the “Three Knights Opinion” (commissioned by The People’s Challenge) which says that Parliament cannot make decisions based on an unknown deal and set of circumstances 18 months or so into the future.

The world is in a state of flux: Europe (including the UK) is not immune to this and has no control over many of the factors causing it.

Furthermore, there are elections due in the next few months in a number of the EU’s major member states, and we still do not know Trump’s attitude towards Europe in general and the EU and NATO in particular.

Not only is it properly respectful of our Parliament’s Sovereignty for its role in the Brexit process to be explicitly defined , it is prudent to do it to ensure that the decision is made in the best interests of the UK when the terms of the deal, if there is one, are known.

We explained in our last update how effective you’ve been in enabling The People’s Challenge to brief members of the Lords and explain, among other things, the impact of the “Three Knights Opinion”.

So it’s “game on” again with the Commons, building on the success of influencing the decisions in the Lords, to which we are proud to have contributed.

We will need to close much of the gap between what we’ve raised so far and our £100,000 stretch target to have a real impact in the Commons when the Bill returns there. Our success so far in making a difference gives us hope of making an ever-greater difference.

That’s why we’re extending our CrowdJustice campaign to cover this crucial next phase, to help us do the very best we can to support Parliamentary Democracy and good sense.

Please carry on helping us to make sure your voices are heard – making a small further donation now to the campaign could help make a big difference to what the Bill allows and how much say Parliament will have about the rights that your family and you will enjoy two years from now.

“We must not lose our faculty to dare, particularly in dark days”.

Grahame.

Please back the The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control and help our parliamentarians ensure that Parliament has meaningful control over the Brexit process.

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