Constitutional issues

The Rogue Prorogation and the English-Scottish judicial divide

As the pressures and contradictions of no-deal Brexit pressure threaten the unity of the United Kigdom, further fissures are to be seen through the prisms of judical reasoning, in which English and Scottish judges view and interpet the world in utterly divergent ways.

The English High Court has curtly dismissed the claim that the Prime Minister’s decision to seek prorogation of Parliament.  By contrast, the Scottish Court of Session (hearing the case on appeal) has held that the advice was for an improper purpose and so unlawful. Both decisions are the subject of appeal to the UK Supreme Court, to be heard on 17th September.

Why the left must now unite against Brexit

Although Theresa May has survived to fight another day as Prime Minister, the of her Brexit deal in parliament has blown the debate wide open. The Prime Minister has called on MPs to "put self-interest aside" and "work constructively together" to find a way forward. In this context, the Labour Party’s next steps are critical.

The debate about Lexit is now irrelevant. The only form of Brexit that is possible is one that will entrench the status quo or empower something far worse. The left must unite against it.

Brexit Agreement: a bad deal, a worse Protocol - time to consult the people!

The main body of the draft Withdrawal Agreement is certainly long and detailed – a tribute to the efficiency of the EU’s legal services – but it mainly contains the sort of provisions one would expect for the terms of the separation, and for issues that straddle the departure timeline. 

But as for the so-called Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol, that’s another matter altogether. It’s not a backstop for Northern Ireland, but an up-front set of binding rules for the UK as a whole.

What Question(s) for a "People's Vote" Referendum?

The calls for a “People’s Vote” on the government’s proposed Brexit ‘deal’ (if indeed there is one) grow louder, but are especially contentious for the Labour Party, whose membership is more minded to “remain” than the public at large, which still seems fairly evenly split.

But the call for a People’s Vote is not so straightforward, partly now in terms of timing and Parliamentary arithmetic, but above all since it poses the tough question – what question to ask the People to vote on? Or indeed what questions, plural?

The best UK/EU transition plan? If we can, extend the Article 50 period

On 30th June 2016, just one week after the EU Referendum, I wrote this:

It has swiftly become clear, if it were not already so, that neither the government nor the leaders of the Brexit campaigns had anything resembling a plan for what to do if the people voted in favour of leaving the EU. 

Alas, over a year later, there is still no plan – and awareness that the Conservative government has simply dumped us here without any idea what to do next is becoming overwhelming.

So we badly need a transitional deal - but what kind?

Making space for an economically democratic European Union

It is generally considered by lawyers and political scientists who study the EU that the Union has all or most of the attributes of a “constitutional order”, and that its Treaties are to be seen as providing a constitutional framework.

But many key economic and social policies are decided not through debate and elections, but via inflexible EU Treaties which lay down a specific economic ideology and policy framework. No matter how they vote, citizens are not allowed to choose a truly different set of economic policies. In the economic domain above all, there is a mismatch between the EU's constitutional democratic principles and the Treaties' detailed provisions.


It's time to revive Europe's democracy - There Is A Real Alternative!

Joint press release from PRIME & the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Brussels Offce on the launch of new report : Bringing democratic choice to Europe's economic governance

The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome offers an opportunity to reflect on what the European Union has achieved – and how problems can be solved. We share the European idea, and express our aspiration to work for a European Union which in the coming decades is truly a force for peace, prosperity, democracy and social progress. 

But despite its commitment to democratic values, one crucial area in which the European Union does not permit legitimate democratic choice is the economic sphere.

Q & A with Prime’s Jeremy Smith on Brexit, immigration and democracy

Earlier in the week U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her vision for Britain’s exit from the European Union.  She couched her outlook in positive terms, speaking of Britain leaving the EU but remaining in Europe. To get a better sense of how realistic her vision is in political and economic terms, I also asked Prime Economics Co-Director Jeremy Smith - an expert on EU and national constitutional issues - for his take.  Here is the Q&A (18th January)  that resulted.

A democratic strategy for the EU negotiations

It has swiftly become clear, if it were not already so, that neither the government nor the leaders of the Brexit campaigns had anything resembling a plan for what to do if the people voted in favour of leaving the EU.  As Mark Carney rather mordantly put it in his speech today,

“In Tim Geithner’s famous dictum, “plan beats no plan.” And in my experience, a plan that is clearly articulated and transparently executed is best of all.”

In other words, addressed to the off-stage Brexiters, but also to the government whose decision it was to hold the referendum, “you’ve dumped us here without your having any idea what to do next.”

Well, I do not claim the wisdom of a Baldrick, but for what it’s worth, here – wearing my lawyer and ‘EU Treaty wonk’ hats - is my cunning plan.

Vote to stay - let's work together to change Europe for the better

 The natural supporters of the European Union from a politically progressive perspective find themselves faced with a difficult dilemma, notably in relation to economic policy.

We need a strong EU for the future on a wide range of issues – not least climate change.  But we also need to work in solidarity with all those across Europe who can see that Europe has to change the basis of its economic ideology and strategy if it is to fulfil its Treaty commitment to the peoples of Europe to work for “full employment and social progress.. a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment”.

Remain for Change - for a democratic economic alternative

The network Economists for Rational Economic Policies (EREP) has today launched its new publication, “Remain for Change: Building European solidarity for a democratic economic alternative”.  

This comprises articles from ten authors (economists and from related disciplines) who are united in arguing that (despite all the flaws in the EU's and Eurozone's economic dogma and policies) from a political and economic perspective, it is essential to vote in the Referendum to remain in the EU.  

The publication will be debated at a short public conference to be held on 15th June 2016 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the University of Greenwich.

Referendum: for all the EU's huge flaws, it's better to work for change with European colleagues

Professor John Weeks and PRIME's Jeremy Smith - who are also convenors of Economists for Rational Economic Policies (EREP) - were recently interviewed by the not-for-profit network Real News on the state of play in the EU referendum debate.    

They explain the right-wing motivations of most "Leave" campaigners" and argue that while the EU has huge weaknesses and is based on Treaties that impose a particular (damaging) economic ideology, it would be disastrous to see Europe fragment again now into warring camps - it is  better to stay and work for change in partnership with European colleagues. 

The Euro Summit - farewell to ordoliberalism and the rule of law

We have read a lot in recent years about the German economic philosophy of Ordoliberalism, which – as a reaction to the illegalities of the Nazi period – emphasizes (as the Economist put it) that “capitalism requires a strong government to create a framework of rules which provide the order (ordo in Latin) that free markets need to function most efficiently.”  But at the Euro Summit yesterday, the EU and Eurozone legal processes were tossed out of the window by the assembled heads of state – raw politics and power triumphed over ordoliberal principle.

The curious quirks of the Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011

In the discussion of what happens after tomorrow’s General Election, if there is no self-evident majority produced (whether single party or easy-fit coalition), not enough attention has been given to the impact of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. This Act was hastily agreed as a means of cementing the Coalition government to hold for a 5 year term. The Act has indeed some very strange quirks to note and in some cases avoid. We explore some of them here.