Jesse’s Ross Gazette column: Triggering Article 50

Together with many other MPs, Ministers and people around the country, I watched last week as Lord Neuberger summarised the Supreme Court's judgment, by a vote of 8-3, ruling that the decision to trigger the UK's withdrawal from the EU must be subject to a vote in Parliament.

It was a remarkable moment, judicial history in the making:  a moment which vastly stimulated public interest in the British constitution and in our legal system, by common consent second to none around the world.  

True to its word, the Government moved very quickly thereafter, tabling a Bill for debate this week. 

By the time this column appears MPs will have voted at Second Reading; if the Bill is passed, as seems likely, there will follow a Committee of the Whole House next week, the Report stage and finally Third Reading. Then the Bill go to the Lords and the process will be run again. If it passes the Lords, it will just require the Royal Assent to become law.

This process is a paradox.  To insiders it seems quite familiar, to others absurdly arcane.  It is surrounded by conventions and procedures that are in no law books, indeed sometimes unwritten, yet which possess the force of law.  It can be fussy, even fuddy-duddy. Some people, as Guy Fawkes showed, would blow it up altogether.

Yet in truth the passage of legislation is a miracle.  It is the product of centuries of evolved political practice.  It balances the democratic voice of the Commons with the expertise, knowledge and dispassion of the Lords; the legitimacy of the ballot box with the legitimacy of due process, transparency and public procedure; the people's representatives with the advice of other guardians of the public interest.

Brexit or not, that is something to be loved and cherished.