Parliament is sovereign – but will it get a truly meaningful say?

In the British system of representative democracy, sovereignty lies with parliament, which means that MPs should have the final say on important matters of politics. 

This is why all friends of British democracy should welcome yesterday’s vote to amend clause 9 of the European Union Withdrawal Bill.  The passing of amendment 7 was a victory for parliamentary democracy, and marks an important first step by parliament to reassert its sovereignty and retake control of the important choices that this country has to make in the coming year.

But the passed amendment does not go far enough. While it will give MPs the choice of accepting or rejecting whatever the deal that the government may be able to secure, it does not yet offer MPs a truly meaningful say.

MPs are charged with acting in the interest of the country and their constituents, and for that reason they should be allowed to evaluate all the possible options for our future relationship with the EU.

To have a truly meaningful vote, MPs must also be given the choice of  voting to remain in the European Union. Help them take back control by signing this petition:

 

Remainers to Campaigners – Workshop Report

On Saturday 21st Oct, SSTIE, sponsored by WKEM, ran an all day Remainers to Campaigners workshop at Sevenoaks Community Center  which attracted 96 delegates from across the South East.

The event, which was described as “highly inspiring” by many of the participants, had a highly ambitious agenda, covering all aspects of remain campaigning from practical issues such as setting up a local groups and establishing communication channels, to discussions over the importance of remaining in the EU, and the political and psychological barriers that need to be overcome. Continue reading “Remainers to Campaigners – Workshop Report”

We are not only the 48%

Many a turning point in history has been decided by a margin smaller than 48%. For instance, the American referendum to use German as their official language (instead of English) was defeated by a narrower margin; and the French referendum to keep the Franc (instead of adopt the Euro) was defeated by a narrower margin. But:- Continue reading “We are not only the 48%”

Undue Influence Legal Challenge (update)

UPDATE 22.6.2017

The Restoring Integrity to Democracy initiative has decided to discontinue this case on financial grounds. For more info please see the statement on the Restoring Integrity facebook page.


Restoring Integrity is a citizens initiative that seeks to ensure that the UK’s Election Laws are upheld – and that any attempt to undermine the democratic process by breaking these election laws is prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.

They are currently raising funds for their new legal challenge – a private prosecution to investigate “undue influence” in the 2016 EU referendum and to criminally prosecute the individuals responsible of any corrupt campaign practices.

More details on the case are available on the Restoring Integrity website, and you can also follow them on facebook or twitter.

However, to make this case happen, it still requires a lot more funds than the £15,000 raised so far. So please give what you can to the crowd-justice fundraiser and encourage others to do likewise!

Timetable leading up to the General Election

  • 3 May at 00:01 – Parliament will be dissolved; any business such as open petitions will be closed prematurely.
  • 4 May at 22:00 – Voting for Kent County Council closes.
  • 11 May at 16:00 – Deadline for nomination as a candidate.
  • 22 May – Last chance to register to vote. You may register on-line by using https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote – this applies to people resident abroad as well. Special conditions apply to Crown Servants, British Council Employees, the Armed Services, Northern Ireland and Welsh speakers; but all may be accessed from this page.
  • 8 June – General Election. All votes, including postal votes must be received by 22:00.

The full timetable as supplied by the Electoral Commission is here:-

Event Working days before poll (deadline if not midnight) Date (deadline if not midnight)
Dissolution of Parliament 25 days Wednesday 3 May
Receipt of writ 24 days Thursday 4 May
Publication of notice of election Not later than 22 days (4pm) Not later than 4pm on Monday 8 May
Delivery of nomination papers From the day after the publication of the notice of election until the sixth day after the date of dissolution Between 10am and 4pm on any working day after publication of notice of election until 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Deadline for delivery of nomination papers 19 days (4pm) 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Deadline for withdrawals of nomination 19 days (4pm) 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Making objections to nomination papers

 

(except for objections on the grounds that an individual candidate may be disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1981 – see Commission guidance)

On 19 days (10am to 5pm), subject to the following:

 

Between 10 am – 12 noon objections can be made to all delivered nominations

 

Between 12 noon and 5pm objections can only be made to nominations delivered after 4pm, 20 days before the poll

 

 

 

 

Between 10am and 12 noon on Thursday 11 May objections can be made to all delivered nominations

 

Between 12 noon and 5pm on Thursday 11 May objections can only be made to nominations delivered after 4pm on Wednesday 10 May

Deadline for the notification of appointment of election agent 19 days (4pm) 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Publication of statement of persons nominated, including notice of poll and situation of polling stations If no objections: on 19 days (at 5pm)

 

If objection(s) are made: Not before objection(s) are disposed of but not later than 18 days (4pm)

If no objections: at 5pm on Thursday 11 May

 

Objection(s) made: not before objection(s) are disposed of but not later than 4pm on Friday 12 May

Publication of first interim election notice of alteration On 19 days

 

Thursday 11 May
Deadline for receiving applications for registration 12 days Monday 22 May
Deadline for receiving new postal vote and postal proxy applications, and for changes to existing postal or proxy votes 11 days (5pm) 5pm on Tuesday 23 May
Deadline for receiving new applications to vote by proxy (not postal proxy or emergency proxies) 6 days (5pm) 5pm on Wednesday 31 May
Publication of second interim election notice of alteration Between 18 days and 6 days Between Friday 12 May and Wednesday 31 May (inclusive)
Publication of final election notice of alteration 5 days Thursday 1 June
Deadline for notification of appointment  of polling and counting agents 5 days Thursday 1 June
First date that electors can apply for a replacement for lost postal votes 4 days Friday 2 June
Deadline for notification of appointment of sub agents 2 days Tuesday 6 June
Polling day

 

0 (7am to 10pm) 7am to 10pm on Thursday 8 June
Last time for re-issue of spoilt or lost postal votes 0 (5pm) 5pm on Thursday 8 June
Deadline for emergency proxy applications 0 (5pm) 5pm on Thursday 8 June
Last time to alter the register due to clerical error or court appeal 0 (9pm) 9pm on Thursday 8 June
After the declaration of result
Event Deadline Date
Delivery of return as to election expenses Within 35 calendar days after the date the election result is declared If result declared on Thursday 8 June: by Thursday 13 July

 

If result declared on Friday 9 June: by Friday 14 July

Deadline for sending postal vote identifier rejection notices Within the period of three months beginning with the date of the poll By Thursday 7 September 2017
Deadline for spending returns of political parties and non party campaigners who spend less than £250,000 Within three months of the election 8 September 2017
Deadline for spending returns of political parties and non party campaigners who spend more than £250,000 Within six months of the election 8 December 2017

It’s NOT Dover & Out!

The fact that Article 50 was submitted this week does not mean it’s “Dover & Out” as a headline from The Sun stated. The submission of Article 50 is just a formal notification of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU, and while the government had to seek parliamentary approval via a Bill with royal assent to submit the declaration, it does not need anyone’s permission to change its mind.

Article 50 symbolizes nothing more than the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, of what will likely be a long and painful, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt of trying to extract the UK from the European Union. It will not succeed because the challenges are too complex at too many levels and because the cost are too high.

It will fail because the negotiations will bring reality to the table – the reality that we are living in an inter-connected world of shared rules, and that leaving the EU means giving up control, not to the EU but to the mercenary rules of the WTO which will prevent the EU and UK from reaching a good deal no matter how much goodwill there is on both sides.

The problems brought up by the negotiations and the Great Repeal Bill will also expose the reality that Britain’s EU membership fee goes to agencies and projects that are very important to the country. In the past few weeks we have seen that leaving EURATOM and EUROPOL will create problems that may be impossible to resolve no matter how much money is thrown at them, and they were never discussed prior to the referendum. How can leaving a nuclear safety treaty and stopping anti-terrorism cooperation mean taking back control?

Ultimately Brexit will fail is because there will come a point when the people have had enough. As prices rise and truths are revealed, more and more people are coming together to oppose the destructive forces of Brexit and celebrate the European part of their identity. In all counties across the UK, local pro-European groups are forming themselves to assert their views. In Kent alone, there are over 15. The pro-European voices of this country are waking up and will remoan for a long as is necessary to remain within the EU.

March for Europe

March 25th is the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and is being celebrated throughout Europe. For us in the UK, political circumstances mean that the celebrations with be joint with political protest against Brexit and how the government is handling it.

Saturday, March 25th:

March for Europe Demonstrations

March 25th is the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and is being celebrated throughout Europe. For us in the UK, political circumstances mean that the celebrations with be joint with political protest against Brexit and how the government is handling it.

Many different organisations are joining this march, as well as thousands of individuals who are not affiliated to anyone,  but each have their own reason for joining, because we all have so much to lose. Whether you care most about Freedom of Movement, the Single Market, environmental protection or one of the many other benefits that EU membership gives us, this is the time to stand up and be counted.

 

Schedule: Sat, March 25th, 2017:

  • 9-10 a.m. – Depart West Kent (wherever you live – see below)
  • 11 a.m.     –  Meet at south end of Park Lane
  • 2 p.m.        – End of march, speeches

 

While SSTIE is not involved in the organisation of this event, we support this event and we encourage our members and others to join.

A number of us will be traveling by train where we will be joining with members of Tonbridge and Malling for Europe and Tunbridge Wells For Europe. If you would like to travel with other people from the local area, then please let us know using the contact form, or simply come to meet us for one of the following trains:

(9.10 – Meet at Tunbridge Wells)

TrAIN 1

9.44 – Depart Tonbridge (meet at 9.25)

9.53 – Depart Sevenoaks

10.04 – Depart Orpington

10.37 – Arrive in Victoria

Train  2

9.51  – Depart Borough Green & Wrotham (meet at 9.30)

10.00 – Depart Otford (meet at 9.45)

10.09 – Depart Swanley (Platform 3 / meet on train / 3rd carriage)

10.41 – Arrive in Victoria

 

10.45 a.m. – Assemble outside WHSmiths in Victoria/ walk to Park Lane

 

March for Europe Route

 

The Challenges for the Great Repeal Bill – New Commons Briefing Paper

Disentangling the UK from over 40 years EU legislation is a huge task that will take years to complete. To overcome this problem, the government is drafting the “Great Repeal Bill”, which will try to simply convert EU laws into domestic legislation, before asking parliament to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act.

Simple as it sounds, there are some tricky legal issues that need to be taken into account. These are descried in a new briefing paper for the House of Commons, a summary of which can be found on the parliament website, as well as a link to the full report (pdf file).

Summary: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7793

 

Beware of Mandate Creep

Mandate creep is not a word that is used often. Like it’s sibling, Mission Creep,  it means moving the goals of an endeavour beyond its original purpose, or “mission” in military terminology – and “mandate” in politics.

In politics, mandate creep happens when people in positions claim that they have the authority to do things they really don’t, and the behaviour of the May administration since the referendum on Exiting the European Union regrettably is perfect example of this. The reasons for this are as follows:

    1. There is absolutely no consensus as to what “Brexit” really means to the people – and politicians are now using this fact to pursue their own agendas.

      Referendum results with estimates of type of Brexit wanted. “Hard Brexit” refers to option 4 (No Deal), offered prior to the vote. “Soft Brexit” refers to the Norway, Switzerland and Canada options (models 1-3), showing that the majority of voters clearly prefers some kind of a deal. If you dispute the data, please comment below, stating reasons and/or sources to support your comment.
    2. The notion that the majority of voters support a Hard Brexit as is currently being advocated by the May administration has no basis in terms of a mandate derived from the Referendum. The campaign for “LEAVE” had 4 options on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, of which only one involved leaving the EU and single market without any new deal at all – an option which was notably derided as insane by most leading LEAVE campaigners. This means that even by the most optimistic estimates, not even half of the LEAVE voters supported the idea of a Hard Brexit. Given that less than 38% of the electorate supported the LEAVE vote overall, this places support for a Hard Brexit at barely 15%.
    3. For some LEAVE voters, the referendum was clearly little more than a protest vote against the Conservative government, and Camerons’s resignation was met by almost unanimous cheer among leave voters. Yet the conservative party itself has clung on to power, and now claims to have a mandate of speaking for the majority, and a minority within the Conservative Party is now defining Brexit on its own terms that often go against the expressed wishes of many leavers. For example, not all leave voters agree with the notion that ties to Europe should be replaced by closer ties to the USA, let alone authoritarian regimes in the Middle East – or anywhere else. Moreover, millions of health-conscious Brexiteers would object to a trade deal with the USA that requires a lowering of environmental and food safety standards to allow GMO, hormone- and chemically-treated foods onto the UK market, and even the staunchest anti-EU voices among British farmers, would have to conc that the contamination of our domestic food chain would result in an instant block of exports to the EU.
    4. Referendum results with leave vote segregated by political ideology. “Other” primarily refers to protest vote. These are estimates based on anecdotal data prior and since the referendum. If you dispute the data, please comment below, stating reasons and/or sources to support your comment.

      The lack of consensus over what Brexit really means is actually greatest among LEAVE voters. This is expressed in very different visions of Brexit that are totally incompatible with one another. They range from Anarcho-capitalist radicals to Far Right Nationalist and Far Left Utopianist, all of whom are now making competing claims for the mandate to define Brexit according to their extreme positions. The notion that Brexit should mean a choice between such extreme views has no mandate at all, since the silent majority of leave voters clearly a more moderate approach, and while the overall majority of voters prefer the status quo.

 

To sum up, any attempt to define a mandate for “Brexit” by the incumbent conservative government can only represent one vision of Brexit, and thus never have the full backing – and mandate from ALL leave voters.

In fact, there can be no consensus – and thus no true mandate – until the people are given a  vote on the type of Brexit they want – either directly via a new referendum – or indirectly via new elections.

 

For more info or to show your support for this, please see this petition.