This obscure law could help MPs wriggle out of Theresa May’s Brexit deal deadlock

The ‘Humble Address’ is a Parliamentary mechanism under which MPs can make their desires known directly to the Queen – and they could use it to withdraw Article 50

Philip Goldenberg
The Independent Voices

Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected by the House of Commons, and the EU will not alter it in a way which will change that parliamentary arithmetic. The Commons has also made it clear that it will effectively veto a no-deal crash out. The no confidence motion tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, among others, will most likely be safely won by the prime minister thanks to her support from the DUP. The EU will not grant anything more than a short extension to the two-year deadline of the end of March applicable to the UK’s notice of intended departure from the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – unless there is a significant intervening event, such as a general election or a Final Say referendum.

Another referendum is the right answer; a decision by referendum should not be reversed without the authority of the people. If the prime minister thinks her deal is so good, there is no logical reason why she should not put it to a popular vote against the option of remaining. Indeed, this concept of a second referendum once the proposed exit terms had been negotiated was advocated by David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg before they found it inconvenient to do so.

But a Final Say referendum can only happen with the cooperation of the government to put through the necessary legislation, and seek an appropriate extension to the Article 50 deadline. The Commons has no mechanism to impose it. And the prime minister has set her face against a People’s Vote, continuing to insist on the false binary choice of “her deal or no deal” – a deeply flawed game of chicken on such a monumental issue.

So does the Commons have an escape route? Enter stage left Houdini, in the unlikely guise of a Humble Address.


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