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The Adventure of Daniel Hannan and the Princes in the Tower Triggering Article 50 without Parliament getting a say would set a precedent for autocracy


NewsHubSince Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy…
Daniel Hannan, as I’ve noted in the past, has an awkward habit of deleting his tweets. Often, by a strange coincidence, it’s the more embarrassing proclamations that vanish into the ether – no explanation, no, “Apologies, friends, I buggered that up didn’t I?” The tweet simply vanishes as if it had never been tweeted.
I’ve taken, then, to screenshot-ing some of the best morsels, just in case they’re not there the next time I look. Here’s one now:
Funny thing about that tweet is that Danny Boy has not, at time of writing, deleted it. Despite the fact he was tricked into embarrassing himself by a mean-spirited Remoaner, it’s still sitting there on the internet looking for all the world like its author is not crippled with embarrassment at the fact he could have been such a dunderhead as to write it. Two things are wrong with it, one relatively small, the other so huge as to be all encompassing.
The small one lies in the choice of monarchs. Not all of them are unreasonable: Henry VIII famously broke with the Catholic Church in his search for a divorce, an heir, and a quick bonk with Anne Boleyn. Since that meant an end to the period in which the English crown was answerable to a higher authority in the form of the Pope, we’ve already been treated to umpteen “Britain’s first Brexit” articles, and they’re not soon likely to stop – all this, despite the fact the big man liked to go around telling people he was also the King of France.
Similarly England spent much of the reign of his daughter trying to avoid being swallowed by the Spanish Empire, so it’s probably fair to suggest that Elizabeth I wasn’t a big fan of European integration either. George V, though, was closely related to – indeed, shared a face with – half the other head of states in Europe during his time on the planet, so what he’s doing there is anybody’s guess.
The truly vexing inclusion, though, is Edward V. Is Daniel Hannan really saying that a boy king who reigned for 79 days and was murdered by a wicked uncle at the age of 12 had serious concerns about the European project? Was it the damage that the Combined Agricultural Policy wrought on developing world farmers that Edward was brooding about in his tower? The money wasted on repeatedly moving the European Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg? What?
@JonnElledge To be fair, if you’d ask the Princes in the Tower if they wanted to leave or remain, I’d bet they’d vote leave.
— Chris Cook (@xtophercook) December 29, 2016
Okay let’s be charitable and assume it’s a typo, presumably for another of Henry’s kids Edward VI. (It certainly wasn’t Edward III who spent much of his reign trying to get into Europe, by kicking off an endless war with France.) But the bigger problem here lies not in the specifics of Daniel’s answer, but in the fact he bothered to answer at all. The entire exercise is entirely ludicrous. It’s like asking for Theresa May’s position on the dissolution of the monasteries, or Jeremy Hunt’s proposals for tackling the Black Death.
The question is an ahistorical nonsense – not just because the European Union was invented in the late 20th century to deal with problems specific to a particular time, but because it misunderstands how England’s role in Europe has evolved over the centuries.
For the first five hundred years or so after the Conquest, the nations of the British Isles were a key part of a western European political system that included France and the Low countries. Until it lost Calais in 1558, indeed, the English Crown generally held territory in France.
The idea that the United Kingdom, as the state became, was with Europe but not of it – that its destiny lay on the high seas, not the continent – is a notion that’s core to Eurosceptic mythology, but one which didn’t emerge until the imperial era. Exactly when I’m not sure (unlike certain Conservative MEPs I’m not afraid to admit my ignorance, which is what makes us better than the animals and egg avatars). However you count it, though, the period between then and 1973 must make up a minority of England’s history as a nation. For most of its history, the idea that the England was somehow not properly “European” would have seemed crazy.
Actually, there was one major European project which a king of both England and Scotland kept us out of, a policy decision confirmed by his successors. That project was a key plank of French foreign policy, grew to encompass more far flung countries like Sweden, and was launched largely to prevent the Germans from getting above themselves. It was the Thirty Years War.
But is James I & VI on Hannan’s list? Is he b*llocks.
It has been widely reported that my case – R (Miller) versus The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – is a Brexit case but this misrepresentation misses the fundamental constitutional issues that it seeks to defend.
The most fundamental rule of the United Kingdom’s constitution is that parliament is sovereign. Today this translates to the constitutional cornerstone that the government of the day, acting as agents for the Crown, cannot by exercise of prerogative powers, override legislation enacted by parliament.
Set within the context of rising populism, I believe the defence of a proper legal process is an important point for this year’s intake of politics students to consider. This is what I fervently believe in and why I took my case to court. To understand the constitutional issue at stake, it is important to look at the political and legal background. On the 23rd June 2016, the country voted to leave the EU.
The mechanism for any member state to withdraw from the EU is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The formal withdrawal process is initiated by a notification from the UK to the European Council. The EU and the UK will then have a two-year time-frame to agree on a withdrawal package.
After that, membership ends automatically, unless the European Council and the UK agree jointly to extend the period. However, a major weakness of Article 50 is that it is not substantive in its content or conditions, and only concerns itself with procedural requirements.
Article 50 (1) states: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” The government indicated they intended to bypass parliament and trigger Article 50 using a Crown prerogative power.
The question raised by our case was whether a government minister, the executive, could trigger the process of withdrawing the UK from the EU without being authorised to do so by an Act of Parliament.
Our case argued that once Article 50 is triggered, the legal consequence of the UK withdrawing would inevitably lead to citizens’ rights being diminished or removed, not least the four freedoms of the free movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders, could cease, depending on the exit package negotiated by the UK government.
My legal team and I believed that as a representative parliamentary democracy, our constitutional requirement is that only parliament can grant rights, and only parliament can take them away.
As no-one appeared to be certain in respect of the fundamental constitutional question about where power lies, and this was the issue my legal team and I were asking the courts to resolve.

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