Fake news. Alternative facts. Enemies of the people. Remoaners. ‘You lost, get over it.’ Politics in 2017 has developed into a polarised world: you pick your side, hate the other side and that’s that.
So thank goodness for politicians like Labour’s Keir Starmer, who stood up in the House of Commons yesterday and made a calm, measured and wholly reasonable speech on Brexit. Who knew such a thing could exist?
Responding to the Supreme Court ruling on Brexit, which saw a panel of judges agree with the original High Court ruling that the decision to invoke Article 50 – which would begin the process of leaving the European Union – must be approved by Parliament.
While it is unlikely that Parliament will make any attempt to thwart the triggering of Article 50 – though MPs in constituencies that voted majority Remain may have a tough decision to make – the ruling means that the act itself will be subject to a debate.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Labour MP Keir Starmer made the following comments:
“This is a good day for parliamentary sovereignty. The supreme court has ruled that we shall have a say in this house on the article 50 issue. Given the issues involved that is quite right and the Prime Minister was wrong to have attempted to sideline parliament in this process.”
“...I hope in the aftermath there won’t be the attacks on our judges that there were when the high court gave its ruling and it’s the duty of all of us to defend them if they do, and to do so quickly.”
“...On issues as important as this [leaving the European Union], it would be wrong for the government to try to minimise the role of parliament, or to seek to avoid amendments.
“This is a question of substance, not process. Last week the Prime Minister committed herself to swapping the known benefits of single market membership and the customs union for the hoped-for benefits of a free trade agreement, with a fallback position of breaking our economic model. That is high risk, and there are big gaps in consistencies and unanswered questions in the Prime Minister’s appoach.
“If the Prime Minister fails in her endeavour, the cost will be borne by families, working people and communities throughout the UK. The stakes are high, and the role of this house in holding the Prime Minister and the government to account throughout the process is crucial.
“Labour accepts and respects the referendum result and will not frustrate the process – but we will be seeking to lay amendments to ensure proper scutiny and accountability throughout the process. That starts with a white paper or a plan – a speech is not a white paper or plan and we need something to hold the government to account throughout the process. You can’t have a speech as the only basis for accountability for two years or more.”
“...the government should welcome such scrutiny, not try to resist it, because the end result would be better if scrutinised that it would otherwise be.”
“I end with this Mr Speaker – what a waste of time and money. The high court decision was 82 days ago, the Prime Minister could have accepted then to have introduced a bill, we could have debated the issues and I’d the secretary of state to lay out what the cost to the taxpayer has been of this appeal.”
Even if you voted Leave, it’s surely hard to argue with any of these points. And for those who voted Remain, it’s good to know that there’s someone looking out for your interests in Parliament.
*Update: Theresa May has now confirmed that she will indeed, be publishing a White Paper, as requested by Starmer, so even she agrees*