European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 7:16 pm, 3rd September 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am afraid that the hon. Lady is wrong because there is a routine constitutional procedure to deal with the situation she describes, and that is the vote of confidence. Yes, we are a representative body, but where does our sovereignty come from? Here I am in agreement with the Scots: sovereignty comes from the people to Parliament. We hold it in trust for them and they gave us an instruction. If we follow this route, we are left with but three options: we have to accept the deal with its anti-democratic backstop; we have to keep on extending, because Parliament would never accept that we are ready to leave; or we could simply revoke and tell 17.4 million people that they were wrong.

The approach taken today is the most unconstitutional use of this House since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell, when he tried to bung up Parliament. Usurping the Executive’s right is unconstitutional, the abuse of emergency debates to do so is unconstitutional and the Bill itself is yet more unconstitutional. A. V. Dicey said that all conventions have

“one ultimate object, to secure that Parliament or the Cabinet…shall in the long run give effect to the will…of the nation”.

These conventions are being disregarded today, and so, by extension, is the will of the nation. Parliament sets itself against the people. Sovereignty comes from the people to Parliament. It does not come to Parliament out of a void. If Parliament tries to challenge the people, this stretches the elastic of our constitution near to breaking point. We should recognise that the people are our masters and show ourselves to be their lieges and servants, not place ourselves in the position of their overlords. As we come to vote today, I hope that all Members will contemplate the current constitutional confusion and consider the chaos that this concatenation of circumstances could create.