This week we have all been digging out our hats and scarves as a cold snap hit the UK.
The Met Office outlook until January paints a sobering picture with a 30 per cent chance of a colder than normal early winter. The chief culprit appears to be unusual behaviour in the stratosphere over the Arctic. Yesterday, news broke that there may also be a snap election looming in the new year. This snap, however, cannot be blamed on the polar vortex but on the High Court ruling which stated that triggering Brexit without parliamentary approval would be illegal.
In a case brought by Gina Miller, an investment manager, three judges have cleared the way for votes in the Commons and Lords to trigger Article 50, the mechanism allowing Britain to leave the EU. This is deeply embarrassing for Theresa May who has been accused of undermining the sovereignty of Parliament (a principle which Brexiteers point to as a reason to leave the EU) by trying to avoid an MP vote.
The Government has appealed but if upheld by the Supreme Court, the decision means that MPs could be given the chance to pass legislation on the terms of the Government’s negotiating position and whether the country has a “hard” or “soft” Brexit. That could include any decision to remain in the single market or to end freedom of movement with the EU. Remain supporters from across the political spectrum have said that they will use the judgment to insist that Ministers seek approval for their negotiating strategy in advance.
Dominic Raab, the former Conservative Justice Minister, said: “The elephant in the room here is if we get to the stage where [MPs] are not willing to allow this negotiation to even begin. I think there must be an increased chance that we will need to go to the country again . . . That would be a mistake and I don’t think those trying to frustrate the verdict in the referendum will be rewarded.”
The Prime Minister has previously committed to triggering Article 50 before the end of March, but some MPs are now predicting a snap general election before then if the High Court ruling is upheld. Bookmakers’ odds on a 2017 election shortened to 2-1 yesterday, while sterling leapt to a three-and-a-half-week high against the US dollar over growing expectations of a soft Brexit. With the Conservatives 14 points ahead in the polls there will be many praying for a snap election to be called. If Labour suffered as heavy a defeat as is predicted there would undoubtedly be renewed and strengthened calls from the Parliamentary Labour Party to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Leader, a prospect many would relish.
Downing Street has, however, played down the significance of the ruling, insisting that its plan for Brexit was on track and that Mrs May did not foresee the need for an early election. “We have no intention of letting this decision derail our timetable for triggering Article 50,” a spokeswoman said. “Our position has been clear that there should not be an election before 2020. That remains the Prime Minister’s view.”
One election that will definitely take place will be the by-election in Sleaford and North Hykeham, following the resignation of Conservative MP Stephen Phillips over “irreconcilable policy differences” with the Government since the Brexit vote. Mr Phillips, although a Brexit supporter, was one of the most vociferous proponents for Pariament to be given a vote on the triggering of Article 50.
As if it wasn’t confusing enough, the process of the UK leaving the European has just got a lot more complicated.So wrap up warm, we’re in for a long winter.