Britain’s decision to leave the EU will be terrible for its democracy, constitutional expert Dr Peter Catterall has told Business Insider’s Lianna Brinded on a Facebook Live.
Far from benefiting the UK’s democracy — an idea many Leave advocates campaigned on — Dr. Catterall says that the confusion over what to do now a Brexit has actually happened will result in rushed and badly thought-out laws.
This is because once the UK triggers Article 50 — the mechanism under the Lisbon Treaty in which a country tells the European Union it is leaving the bloc — it will only have two years to fully prepare for a life outside of the EU. And this time limit could have serious implications for UK democracy, Dr. Catterall says:
“Once you trigger article 50 you have only got two years to negotiate this. And at some point, you will have to repeal a lot of legislation — in all probability the 1972 European Communities Act [which is how the UK joined the EU in the first place]. To do this you will probably have to replace it with a lot of legislation that is badly thought out.”
He adds that after speaking to colleagues the consensus was that an incoming “Brexit government” in the autumn to replace Prime Minister David Cameron — who resigned following the vote on Friday — would have to introduce legislation called Henry VIII clauses. So what are these exactly, and why are they bad?
“Henry VIII clauses have nothing to do with the last monarch to take us out of Europe — Henry VIII, who took us out of the Catholic Church — it is just a term given to clauses purporting to legislation to say the Secretary of State can change the interpretation of this without having to go back to parliament for its approval.
“In other words, despite a referendum supposedly about democracy, the chances are we are going to see even more undemocratic being done to us by the British government — which, evidence suggests, large numbers of Leavers did not trust anyway. This makes [the campaign slogan] “Taking Back Control” deeply ironic.”
Should the UK just copy Norway?
The method of exactly how the UK will leave the EU has been much discussed since the referendum, but a consensus still seems a long way off — especially with Conservative leadership candidate and Leave advocate Boris Johnson offering very mixed signals on what a Brexit would actually look like.
One mooted model is to follow Norway — which is not in the EU but is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). This allows Norway full access to single market — which it has to make a financial contribution for — but it must accept most EU laws as well as the Freedom of Movement Act.
But Dr. Catterall says that though this is the most likely route for the UK, it begs the question of why we had the referendum in the first place:
“If you wanted the Norwegian model, what was all this for? It is a worst case scenario because you don’t have any say in what happens in the EU but you still have to pay more or less the same amount to get into the single market. Instead of taking back control we’re losing control because we won’t have a voice.”