The sheer breathtaking nerve of it is hard to believe.
But it’s true: Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, the biggest double-losers in recent British political history — the former Labour and Liberal Democrat party leaders who were heartily rejected by the voters in last year’s General Election, and again a few months ago when they campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU — have joined forces to insist the Government has no democratic right to implement what they term ‘hard Brexit’.
Ed Miliband said in The Observer: ‘There is no mandate for hard Brexit and I don’t believe there is a majority in parliament for it, either’
Nick Clegg: This term ‘hard Brexit’ needs to be exposed for the Orwellian doublespeak that it is
And this week, they are to be joined at the High Court by the firm of Mishcon de Reya, representing an alleged 1,000 lawyers who want to put a block — if necessary via the House of Lords — on Theresa May invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty: the only way in which a member of the EU can formally begin negotiations to secede.
Yesterday, Ed Miliband said in The Observer: ‘There is no mandate for hard Brexit and I don’t believe there is a majority in parliament for it, either’ and he was backed up by Nick Clegg in the same newspaper.
This term ‘hard Brexit’ needs to be exposed for the Orwellian doublespeak that it is.
What Messrs Miliband and Clegg and their followers in the defeated Remain camp mean by ‘soft’ Brexit (as in cuddly, cosy, gentle) is that the UK should immediately apply for membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).
This is the organisation consisting of 28 EU states and three others (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). All are full members of the EU single market, in return for which they pay substantial contributions to the EU budget, and undertake to honour the principle of ‘free movement’ — that is, uncontrolled migration within the 31-nation area.
This is monitored and invigilated by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Court, a faithful little Miss Echo of the European Court of Justice. The very first sentence of the website of the EFTA Court couldn’t be clearer: ‘The aim of the EEA agreement is to guarantee the free movement of persons . . . in all 31 EEA states.’
This is the so-called ‘soft Brexit’ that Miliband, Clegg and defeated but still campaigning Tory Remainers, such as Anna Soubry (left) and Nicky Morgan (right)
This, then, is the so-called ‘soft Brexit’ that Miliband, Clegg and defeated but still campaigning Tory Remainers, such as Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, say the British public were ‘really voting for’ when more than 17 million ballots were cast for ‘Leave’.
Really? A modicum of investigation would have revealed (if they were interested in the truth about what happened on June 23) that the overwhelming majority of pro-Brexiters had a very different — and very clear — idea of what they were voting for.
I recently attended a presentation on this by the country’s most respected opinion poll analyst, Professor John Curtice.
Citing a series of recent polls on the matter, he said they showed that what almost 90 per cent of Leave voters understood by Brexit was that British taxpayers would no longer be paying billions of pounds a year into the EU budget and that the Government would be able to exert some control over the sort of people who would be able to enter this country from the EU. It is hardly surprising this should be the case. The two principal pledges of the winning Leave campaign were to return to British taxpayers the entirety of the £10 billion a year net British contributions to the EU and to regain control of migration policy. Therefore the claim by Miliband, Clegg, Soubry and co that the British people were not voting for what they call ‘hard Brexit’ is self-serving rubbish, if not straightforwardly dishonest.
Or to put it another way: what MiliClegg call ‘hard Brexit’ is what the British electorate meant by Brexit.
And what MiliClegg call ‘soft Brexit’ is what those 17 million and more voters on the winning side would call ‘betrayal’.
Fortunately, by no means all those parliamentarians who backed the Remain campaign agree with the idea that the losers should be allowed to define what the British public meant by Brexit.
Yesterday, Baroness Manzoor, who led the revolt in the Lords against the Government’s proposed cuts to tax credits, announced she was leaving the Liberal Democrats over the party’s policy, under its new leader Tim Farron, to try to frustrate Britain’s exit from the EU.
She said: ‘I could not support the leadership of a party that calls itself democratic and then refuses to acknowledge the will of the people in a referendum.’
Mrs May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference shattered hopes
You might ask why it is that MiliClegg have suddenly launched this challenge.
The reason is that, until last week, they had hoped Theresa May, who had herself been (rather unenthusiastically) on the Remain side during the referendum campaign, would swing the Government behind so-called ‘soft Brexit’. But Mrs May’s remarkable speech to last week’s Conservative Party conference completely shattered their hopes.
She told her adoring party members in Birmingham — and the nation via their television screens — ‘Let me be clear. We are not leaving the EU only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.’
That was, indeed, clear: Britain would not, under Mrs May, apply to join the European Economic Area. By the way, the other reason MiliClegg want the UK to join this group (‘soft Brexit’) is that this organisation was always designed to be the ante-room to full EU membership. In other words, MiliClegg’s cunning plan is that this would make it much easier for Britain to rejoin the EU in the relatively near future.
Mrs May’s speech also explains why the German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, have suddenly begun to make distinctly threatening noises about the ‘price the UK must pay’ for Brexit.
Until last week, they, too, had imagined we might apply to remain full members of the single market — which would, as they rightly added, mean that we continued to commit to free movement.
Yet the British people should not be panicked by these threats, still less by the nearly hysterical Anna Soubry, who, as a business minister under David Cameron, claimed that, if the UK ceased to be a member of the single market, our exports to the rest of the EU would fall to ‘almost absolutely zero’.
Leave aside the fact that the countless Chinese products in our stores and homes demonstrate that a country doesn’t have to be a member of the single market to sell billions of pounds’ worth of goods to it: what Britain will aim to negotiate with the EU is some sort of zero-tariff free trade deal.
Canada and the EU have recently done so — and it will not result in that Commonwealth country either paying into the EU budget or accepting free movement of citizens between it and those 28 (soon to be 27) member states. This is what it means — to quote Mrs May’s Birmingham speech — to be a ‘sovereign and independent nation’.
When the Referendum Bill was passed in 2015, the then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond declared it meant that ‘the decision about our membership [of the EU] should be taken by the British people . . . not by parliamentarians in this Chamber’
But what of MiliClegg’s fifth column of lawyers who, this week, will try to persuade the High Court to agree to its claim that the Government is not legally entitled to invoke Article 50 by ‘exercise of the Royal Prerogative’ — that is, without first gaining the support of a vote in the House of Commons and the (very anti-Brexit) unelected House of Lords?
It seems the High Court will immediately pass the case up to the Supreme Court, which has indicated that it will make its decision by December at the latest.
If I were a betting man, I’d put a heavy wager on the Supreme Court rejecting the claim that the Government isn’t entitled to invoke Article 50 without first putting it to Parliament.
First, when the Referendum Bill was passed in 2015, the then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond declared it meant that ‘the decision about our membership [of the EU] should be taken by the British people . . . not by parliamentarians in this Chamber’.
And second, as that unparalleled expert on the legal aspects of Britain’s EU membership, Martin Howe QC, points out: ‘Article 50 came in as part of the Lisbon Treaty, which took force in British law in 2008. But nowhere in the 2008 Act is there any restriction upon the exercise of the Royal Prerogative to give notice to leave the EU under Article 50.’
In other words, MiliClegg and those attempting to thwart Theresa May through the courts are not just using Orwellian language to trash the verdict of the people in the referendum: they do not even accept the legal order on which our sovereignty rests.
These two-time losers are about to suffer a third defeat. Perhaps then even they will admit it.