Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Forty-five years ago the Wilson Government introduced an important change to the unwritten British constitution.
The first major referendum helped to address, politically, the then divisions within the Labour Party on Europe, but more importantly established the precedent of putting an issue of major national importance, above party politics, for the people to decide upon directly by a referendum.
Since then both Scotland’s position visa vi potential independence and changing the voting system to a PR basis have been decided by referenda. But the Remainer cabal has chosen to ignore the position and role of a major referendum in which the British people decided they wanted to leave the EU.
As Alistair Heath has pointed out, membership of the EU has already undermined our historic, unwritten constitution such that we will need to codify how we are governed, both to protect individual rights and liberties and to ensure that democracy can no longer be routinely subverted or disregarded by an arrogant, know-it-all elite. It will be a key component of a rebooted, newly-independent UK.
We should never again accept the dysfunctionality that has overshadowed the past few years, with MPs trying to cancel the most important referendum decision in modern British history and the Speaker abetting the creation of a parallel executive. We do not want a US-style Supreme Court, being encouraged to turn themselves into yet another set of legislators.
Our catastrophic membership of the EU, the leftward shift of the governing classes, the Blairite legal reforms including the 1998 Human Rights Act, the emasculation of other forms of local government, and the creation of the separate Supreme Court have all conspired to undermine our uncodified constitution.
It also requires politicians to allow unwritten conventions to guide their behaviour – a principal which Brexit Remainers have trashed.
The first and most important reform will be the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliament Act. Second, the power to conduct international treaty negotiations needs to be left solely to the Executive. But there are more. The Speaker needs to be bound by clear rules; an MP who wants to change party should be obliged to call a by-election; the second Chamber should be used more to appoint accountable, “special adviser”, ministers.
Too many decisions have been taken by the courts rather than resolved by democratically elected politicians. The courts should not be un-elected legislators. We need to allow direct and indirect democracy to co-exist, with voters able to force referenda as in Switzerland and US and the outcomes being legally binding.
David Cameron’s book, ironically, set out a powerful case for Brexit. He started out as a Eurosceptic who thought the irritations of the EU were a price worth paying for the free trade advantages. In power he soon discovered the horrors to which we had become exposed – the directives, the stitch-ups, the knives out for the City. He voted against a Eurozone bailout package which threatened to cost Britain dear, only to see the rules changed so the UK veto would not count.
In contrast to Germany’s unfailing ability to get what it wants, Britain’s has been non-existent. We have opposed only 70 pieces of EU legislation during the time of our membership, of which none have been accepted.
The process under which Jean-Claude Juncker became President of the European Commission also shocked Cameron, and he finally grasped that the EU process of powers being transferred to Brussels – and never taken back – is a formula to erode national democracy via the use of increasingly complex law and regulations.
In short, Cameron learnt how the EU grasped and exercised its powers – and became the strongest candidate for reform. He never explains, however, after so many losses, how he thought he could possibly achieve the necessary changes. It is even more difficult to understand how Cameron thought he could win the fight for reform by backing Remain.
There is nothing in his book explaining why he thinks EU membership is a good thing; nor is there a single example of anything emanating from Brussels that benefits Britain.
The best possible outcome of Brexit would be a Canada-style trade deal with the EU on the bulk of mutually traded goods, together with a clean exit restoring full British sovereignty.
‘On the Record’ effectively exposes why the latter is perhaps the most important. Britain’s great democracy has been squeezed inside an unaccountable EU bureaucracy. No-one else in Europe has been willing to challenge this, or give their voters the chance to escape.
The danger that, for the sake of a deal, full British sovereignty is not restored. Here it would be better to leave without a deal. While the Remainer cabal continues to plot and abuse the constitution in order to frustrate Brexit, it is extraordinary that they do not seem to realise that an even bigger and growing majority of citizens who, having voted Leave in the referendum, would not accept remaining in the EU