Petition to the House of Lords: Amend or Reject the Article 50 Bill
This petition had 4,828 supporters
We, the signatories to this petition, call upon all members of the House of Lords to amend or reject the Bill to trigger Article 50 when it comes to your House if it is not backed up by the following:
1. In the national interest, guarantees that the United Kingdom Government has a sound financial and economic strategy in place to ensure that the quality of life in the United Kingdom does not fall below a reasonable standard;
2. Guaranteed protections for the rights of the U.K. citizens who are facing the prospect of being forcibly stripped of E.U. citizenship;
3. Guaranteed protections for the rights of E.U. citizens living in the U.K. who are facing the prospect of being forcibly removed even if they have family here;
4. Guarantees that the rights and safeguards given to U.K. citizens by the E.U, including the Working Time Directive, food standards, and the right to live, work or retire anywhere in Europe are not forcibly removed;
5. A guarantee that the Government and Government departments will strengthen equality and diversity legislation and back it up with programmes of awareness and education to help curb the sometimes vile expressions of racism and xenophobia that some citizens now feel they are free to express;
6. a guarantee that such a major national decision, with such far reaching consequences, will never again be taken on the basis of a poorly planned and run Referendum campaign, and will never be implemented without consulting Parliament.
Re - 1, - The Government has no international trade agreements in place as it tries to rush the Bill to trigger Article 50 through Parliament. It is rushing to plunge the U.K. into further economic and financial uncertainty.
No-one knows for sure how the U.K. will fare in the long term if it does leave the E.U; it may do well, it may do badly, but the last seven months have not been particularly good, with the £ falling dramatically on several occasions, and with the prospect of more large scale borrowing, possibly £57 billion, leading to more national debt, possibly £122 billion, and the impacts on various industries have not been properly considered.
Article 50 is assumed by the Supreme Court to be irrevocable, and so once triggered the U.K. is committed to leaving the E.U. Whether the U.K. has a deal with the E.U. in place or not, after 2 years it will leave. Such a move could potentially cause severe economic and social problems; the U.K. will be unable to ratify new trade agreements before departure - the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, has admitted that the U.K. cannot make new trade deals until it formally leaves the E.U, which may not be until 2019, look up the following online Business Insider article:
It must be remembered that the U.K. is not self-sufficient in food production, yet with no international trade deals ratified on the day it leaves the E.U, it may not be able to import even basic foodstuffs.
The E.U. has categorically stated that there is to be no negotiation on access to the single market without the acceptance of the four freedoms, and that it is impossible to do a deal which is better for an exiting state than that for member states. To accept an E.E.A.-style deal, the U.K. may end up paying more than it currently does for effectively the same benefits, but without any influence. Ultimately, it is impossible to leave with a better deal than the one we have already by being in.
If the U.K. does leave, it must rely on striking trade deals through the World Trade Organisation; making such deals could take years and there is no guarantee that they will go through. It is a fact that if only one country in the W.T.O. disagrees with the details of a deal with the U.K, then it cannot be implemented.
Now, as the Article 50 Bill is being rushed through Parliament, the U.K. is rushing to make provisional trade deals with countries such as the U.S.A, and no-one yet knows what compromises that may entail. There are already media stories about U.S. interests possibly buying into parts of the National Health Service. The desperation of the U.K. Government to get provisional deals in place has led to Prime Minister Theresa May failing to directly condemn the comments of President Donald Trump regarding the use of torture and his actions regarding his treatment of refugees and green card holders with legal residency in the U.S. Many world leaders and human rights groups have spoken out, but Theresa May has not. By default, the UK is now supporting President Trump's aggressive and divisive rhetoric. Worse still, the current Government is now desperate to make hasty trade deals with dubious regimes, such as that of Turkey. It is amazing that the U.K. is turning its back on the European Union, one of the best regions in the world for human rights, to possibly engage in trade deals with some of the worse regimes in the world. None of this is in the long-term national interest.
A crucial decision about the long-term future of the U.K. and its people has been taken and the possible consequences have not been carefully thought through.
There has been a precedent for this in recent history, and that was the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, when the Governments of the United States and Great Britain made a rash bi-lateral decision to start a war, but did so without preparing a long-term strategy, and thus ended up taking their peoples into a military and political mess, the effects of which are still being felt to an extent now, almost fourteen years later.
Post Referendum, the Government has lost two court cases regarding the use of the Royal Prerogative, yet it is now almost bullying Parliament into passing Article 50; it is more or less saying that it can use something just like the Royal Prerogative; in doing so, it is stifling debate and avoiding democratic responsibility to country and constituency. This makes a mockery of the court judgments. 70% of the Cabinet supported Remain before the Referendum, but have now gone over to supporting Leave, which raises questions about whether they are breaching their code of conduct in public office.
Re – 2, if the U.K. does leave the E.U. it will be one of the largest, if the not THE largest, mass collective strippings of citizenship rights in history, from people who have not committed any crime or presented any threat to any state. It will remove the rights to live, study, work and retire anywhere in the E.U. not just from the 16.1 million U.K. citizens who voted Remain in the June 23rd 2016 Referendum, and from millions of young people aged 16 – 17 who were not given a vote in the Referendum, but from EVERYONE in the U.K. It will also plunge the lives of hundreds of thousands of British citizens already living and working in the E.U. into stressful uncertainty.
Re - 3, E.U. citizens living or working in the U.K. who have married, or had children with U.K. partners, have had their lives plunged into turmoil and uncertainty by not knowing whether they will be secure in the U.K. A great many of these people have worked here for many years and paid their taxes into the U.K. economy.
Re – 4, contrary to what many people in the U.K. were led to believe, especially by the Leave lobby during the Referendum campaign, the E.U. gave ordinary people in the U.K. many benefits. These included:
• the Working Time Directive, to ensure that companies could not force employees to work excessive hours against their will;
• regulations to provide better working conditions for hundreds of thousands of part time workers, particularly women;
• improved food standards,
• environmental standards, including regulations that helped to clean up some of Britain’s most polluted beaches and that improved re-cycling practices;
• the right to have DNA removed from Police records if not charged with a crime;
• the right to trade freely with businesses across the E.U;
• the right to live, work or retire anywhere in the E.U.
Some Conservative Party politicians have already been speaking of the need to cut regulations and red tape in order to make a post-Brexit U.K. more efficient. THERE MUST BE GUARANTEES FROM THE GOVERNMENT, before the Article 50 Bill is passed, that this does not mean slashing food Standards, Health and Safety standards or standards that protect workers from being made to work excessive hours on low pay.
Re – 5, There is no denying the fact that the Referendum result has bitterly divided the U.K. by region and even down to family and friend level, and that it has brought to the surface some of the unpleasant characteristics of many individuals, e.g. the wave of backward and inward looking fear, hate, racism and xenophobia that was particularly evident in the days and weeks immediately after the Referendum. This sort of unpleasantness is still there for everyone to see on many social media sites espousing the Leave viewpoint, it has helped to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, e.g. Gina Miller has faced death threats for rightfully taking the Government to court, and many politicians are now pandering to the fears and prejudices of their constituents, instead of doing what is morally right and standing up for values of inclusivity and tolerance.
The Government must back up any attempt to get this Bill through with a guarantee to tackle racism and xenophobia of the kind seen immediately after the Referendum, and it must do so not through the hollow soundbites and words of politicians, but by educating and informing people properly about equality and diversity in public life, in schools and in workplaces. Britain is one of the better countries in the world for equality, but deep seated racism and xenophobia is clearly still an unpleasant part of British culture, lingering in a percentage of the British population. Many of us have felt frustrated by the fact that post – Referendum, a lot of politicians have continued to pander to the fear and prejudice that fuelled a percentage of the Leave vote. By doing so, they are rubber stamping the most unsavoury attitudes within our country. The social aspect is one of the reasons why many of us are deeply concerned about the future, quite apart from the economic aspect.
Re - 6, The Referendum was poorly organised and was badly run. It was almost criminal for such a major, far-reaching decision of such national importance to have been arrived at in this manner. The government gave out contradictory information, the evidence is there for all to see:
• The Government claimed in the leaflet that they sent out to all U.K. households that any decision would be the decision of the people and would be implemented, and yet in the initial white paper it was clearly stated that:
"It does not contain any requirement for the Government to
implement the results of the referendum"
and, further on:
"The UK does not have constitutional provisions which would
require the results of the referendum to be implemented"
In September the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee said in a report: “It would be constitutionally inappropriate, not to mention setting a disturbing precedent, for the executive to act on an advisory referendum without explicit parliamentary approval – particularly one with such significant long-term consequences. The government should not trigger article 50 without consulting parliament.”
And yet the Referendum result is now being interpreted by the Government as having been legally binding. It was actually a referendum to gauge the mood of the British people, although all of the electorate didn’t vote in it, and as there was such a narrow majority, it might have been wise for the Government to go back to the E.U. to seek further reforms, including a ruling from the European Court of Justice on possible reversal of Article 50 at some time in the future, before returning to Parliament to make a final decision.
The Government clumsily interfered in the democratic process by sending out leaflets urging people to vote Remain.
During the Referendum, misinformation and exaggerated claims were presented by both sides, and were allowed to run wild. Many Leave voters mainly focussed on the immigration issue, but they were given conflicting information, e.g. told that there would be an extra £350 million per week to the NHS. They were also left with the impression that they would still have access to the Single Market and Customs Union.
The Government should have stepped back and made a ruling that information both for and against staying in the European Union had to be presented to the public by neutral and unbiased sources in a calm, detailed and factual manner, thus enabling voters to make a properly informed decision. It has since emerged that many people had limited knowledge of the E.U, many people who voted didn’t even know what it was. (That last one has in part been the fault of successive British Governments over the decades, who failed in their duty to keep British people informed about the E.U. through, perhaps, public information advertisements).
Relevant to this poorly run Referendum is the result. The argument that it is “the will of the people” per se is flawed.
The vote, as we all know, was 48% to 52%, leaving a very significant number of people unrepresented in England and Wales. 26.75% of the population, 37% of the electorate, does not constitute the will of the people for such a momentous change; this Referendum should have had a supermajority rule attached to it.
Also, it must be remembered that the Referendum gave no vote at all to:
• young people aged 16-17, who were not allowed to vote on an issue more relevant to their futures than to any other group;
• British citizens who had lived abroad for many years;
• the many Britons living or working overseas who did not get ballot papers in time;
• U.K. citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years, and who may decide to return to the U.K. at some time in the future.
• Quite apart from the millions of U.K. citizens who were disenfranchised, the Referendum gave no vote to non-U.K. citizens who have resided here for many years, E.U. nationals living in Britain, most of whom are taxpayers, were not allowed to vote:
although they could vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum, while Commonwealth citizens could vote even if they were not EU citizens. Some could vote in General Elections, yet not in E.U. referendum.
The Government must therefore back up any attempt to get the Article 50 Bill through Parliament with a guarantee that any future major decisions affecting the nation and its people, especially if they involve a referendum, are conducted properly, with accurate and unbiased information given to voters, and the final decision being taken by Parliament.
Since the Referendum most Remain voters have not been as vociferous as sections of the Leave camp. We have been called undemocratic for refusing to accept the result of the Referendum, but there is no law stating that everyone must be happy with the outcome of any kind of vote. If that were the case, British Parliamentary democracy would not have an Opposition Party in the House of Commons to challenge, and oppose by voting, Government policy during the five-year term in office. Part of being in a democracy is having the very right to disagree with an election or referendum decision, especially one as far-reaching and profound as this one.
Unlike in a General Election, British people will not simply be able to vote for a different outcome in five years’ time; if Britain is taken out of Europe, it could be for the rest of most people’s lives. Furthermore, once out, Britain could be out forever; even if voters choose a pro-E.U. Government in 2020, the E.U. may not take us back - it only needs one member state, even one as small as Malta, to object and a renewed British membership application will be blocked, and even if the U.K. is accepted back, it could be on terms less favourable than those we currently have.
Leaving the EU is a life-changing, nation-changing decision, and not only has it yet to be proven to be beneficial to the country, it seems to be becoming more complicated, destructive and far-reaching by the day. 40 years of building our nation based on an alliance with other European countries cannot be undone in one swift move without massive pain and disruption to everyone's lives and livelihoods. In these uncertain and unstable times, including the threats from climate change, and terrorism, we should be working more closely with our neighbours and fighting for shared values, not closing ranks or closing borders.
We, the signatories, therefore call upon The Lords to uphold their duty, consider the legal implications of removing rights, and reject any hastily passed Article 50 Bill that does not properly protect the security, prosperity and social cohesion of the U.K.
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