AS Theresa May asks the EU for an extension to Article 50 for three months as the support of sufficient MPs for her Withdrawal Agreement remains elusive, it could be argued that the Parliamentary gridlock over Brexit is evidence of the health of Britain’s democracy – and those longstanding checks and balances that are in place to prevent any abuse of power.
Under the so-called ‘separation of powers’, the executive – namely Theresa May’s government – has been unable to ride roughshod over the legislature over the passage of Brexit laws, culminating with John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, announcing that the Withdrawal Agreement has to be fundamentally changed before he will allow it to be put to a third meaningful vote.
And then there is the judiciary – no one can accuse Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General, of doing Mrs May any favours when he published his legal advice on the Northern Irish backstop.
Yet, because Britain does not have a written constitution, these protocols do derive from precedent – the Speaker cited a “very strong” convention dating back to 1604 to justify his decision – and they were not intended for a minority government, at the mercy of others, handling a policy as complex as Brexit. As such, the running feud between the Speaker and Ministers must not come in the way of Parliament attempting to reach a consensus of sorts prior to this the country’s supposed departure from the EU on Friday week.
To those businesses and individuals awaiting clarity, this trumps all other political and constitutional considerations.