Politician says parliament to be kept in dark about EU negotiations, lawyers not very happy about it

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By Katie King on

Basic principle of parliamentary sovereignty may be under threat from Brexit “farce”


Lawyers have clubbed together for a shared social media moan this week, slamming David Davis’ position on parliament’s involvement in Brexit negotiations.

Davis, the man in charge of the government’s new Brexit department (full name: Department for Exiting the European Union), reportedly told a House of Lords select committee on Monday that negotiation details will be kept secret from parliamentarians. He said:

Before Article 50 is triggered will be a rather frustrating time because we won’t be saying a lot. We’ll be saying a bit, laying out guidelines, but as the Prime Minister has said we won’t give a running commentary on it because that would just undermine our negotiating stance from the beginning.

He also said:

I can entirely see accountability after the event, that’s very clear. In advance, I don’t think it’s possible for parliamentarians to micro-manage the process and wouldn’t give us an optimum outcome for the country.

Moments after Davis made his controversial comments, lawyers were out in force on social media making their opinions known. Leading the way was media lawyer David Allen Green:

The main concern is that, by advocating a Brexit negotiation that doesn’t involve parliament, the government will be undermining the basic principle of parliamentary sovereignty.

A staple in first year law student syllabuses, this constitutional principle states parliament is the supreme law-making authority in the country; no other source can amend or overrule a law that parliament has passed.

Throughout the EU referendum campaign, Boris Johnson and co appealed to parliamentary sovereignty in an attempt to win votes, claiming the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU eroded the principle. So, to Green and other social media commenters — like Colm O’Cinneide, UCL professor of human rights, and Durham Law School lecturer Alan Greene — Davis’ latest announcement is more than a little ironic.