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“Roundheads vs Cavaliers” : The British Constitution and Parliamentary sovereignty in the face of Brexit

Guillaume Clément
p. 35-50

Résumé

Brexit has been one of the defining features of Theresa May’s premiership. In the summer of 2016, when the EU referendum’s results forced David Cameron out of Downing Street, Theresa May took over as PM with the task of seeing the United Kingdom through the withdrawal process. The first few months of her term in office have proven all the more difficult as the unprecedented nature of Brexit has led to high-profile legal challenges in the courts, especially in R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for leaving the European Union. In the latter, the Supreme Court established that notification of withdrawal from the EU could only be triggered by a vote in Parliament, hereby strengthening Parliament’s role in the Brexit procedure as opposed to the government’s Crown prerogatives. This fight between supporters of the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty, as opposed to the government’s, has encouraged several observers to describe Britain’s current political situation in Civil War-era terms, as “Roundheads versus Cavaliers”. Nevertheless, Brexit’s intricacies have long outgrown this procedural question and have put several aspects of the British Constitution to the test, from the separation of powers to the representative function of MPs. All in all, the use of this Civil War-era metaphor aptly describes the many divisions carved out by Brexit within the UK government, but also within the Conservative party itself.

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Extrait du texte

Ce document sera publié en ligne en texte intégral en novembre 2018.

Plan

Introduction
Crown Prerogative versus Parliamentary sovereignty
Article 50 : Brexit in the courts
A constitutional challenge to the separation of powers ?
The representative function of MPs : party versus constituency
A Civil War re-enactment within the Conservative party ?
Conclusion

Aperçu du texte

Introduction

Throughout the campaign for the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum, most arguments relied on divergent views of the nature of the European Union : the “Remain” camp saw the EU as a blessing for the UK and a chance for further collaboration with the continent, while, on the other hand, “Brexiters” depicted the EU as an ever-growing “leviathan” with deep-reaching powers imposing an unnecessary drag on the UK’s finances.

On June 23rd, 2016, 51.9 % of those who voted chose to leave the European Union, triggering David Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister. Following a leadership contest within the Conservative party, Theresa May took over in Downing Street on July 13th and put together a cabinet of her own, with the aim of steering the nation through withdrawal negotiations with the EU. Theresa May then formally invoked Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon on March 29th, 2017, thus officially notifying the European Union of the UK’s intention to withdraw fr...

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Référence papier

Guillaume Clément, « “Roundheads vs Cavaliers” : The British Constitution and Parliamentary sovereignty in the face of Brexit », Observatoire de la société britannique, 21 | -1, 35-50.

Référence électronique

Guillaume Clément, « “Roundheads vs Cavaliers” : The British Constitution and Parliamentary sovereignty in the face of Brexit », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 21 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2018, consulté le 22 juillet 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/osb/2090 ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.2090

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Auteur

Guillaume Clément

Maître de Conférences en Civilisation britannique à l'Université de Rennes 1

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Observatoire de la société britannique

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