Brexit Lessons

We try to draw some wider lessons from the nightmare that the Brexit process has now become. What have we learned about the relationship between parliament and the executive? Is there any way that the Article 50 process could have worked? And what conclusions will other countries reach about how hard it is to leave the EU? Plus we talk about the recent report from the Hansard Society indicating that the British public is more open than ever to the idea of a 'strong leader'. With Helen Thompson and Kenneth Armstrong.


Talking Points:


The Cooper Act has been rushed through both houses—but has it really changed anything?

  • Very little in this act actually constrains the government.
  • No deal isn’t off the table.
  • Even if it didn’t change much in substantive terms, in constitutional terms, Parliament may have set something in motion.


The relationship between the executive and the legislature is under fire in a lot of places.

  • Executive power tends to be more unrestrained on the international stage.
  • Treaties take important issues out of the realm of national politics. Legislatures only get to say yes or no.
  • The EU raises a lot of these issues because it is a treaty-based union.


By all objective measures the May government should be on its last legs right now.

  • But the Fixed-term Parliaments Act means there’s no real mechanism for getting rid of the government.
  • Could the May government just stagger on?
  • A lot of MP’s don’t want a general election.
  • Even if the Labour leadership does, the parliamentary Labour party doesn’t.
  • At every turn, Parliament seems to be trying to escape responsibility for its own actions.


What is the lesson others should take from all of this?

  • Is the problem Ireland?
  • Or is the problem the UK parliamentary system, and coalition governance?
  • ... Or is it just really hard to leave the EU?


A new report from the Hansard Society shows that a lot of people in Britain seem to have a taste for authoritarianism.

  • What people really want is a politician who can cut through politics.
  • There may be a substitution effect between process and personality. When process breaks down, people want a charismatic leader.


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