All of last week’s discussions around Westminster were about the formation of an emergency Government by anti-No-Deal MPs and who could lead such a Government. However, the most significant bit is what comes next...

First published in August 2019.

Could the UK leave the EU under a Boris Johnson government on Brexit Day, 31 October, for a plain Remain Parliament — with a majority of MPs elected in a General Election in November — to later cancel that very decision retrospectively with the European Union’s consent?

Yes, according to Professor Vernon Bogdanor, a research professor at the Centre for British Politics and Government, King’s College London.

On Thursday, Professor Bogdanor told BBC’s Simon McCoy that a General Election, “even if held in November, would take on something of the character of a referendum... Even if we have left (the EU by then), our Parliament is sovereign. It can do what it likes. It can vote retrospectively to deem that we haven’t in fact left.

Professor Bogdanor explained: “Suppose a Remain majority was returned (in a General Election), that majority could vote retrospectively to deem that we had not in fact left the European Union... And on the European Union side, an agreement would also be necessary because October 31 is the default date for them by the Treaty. I believe, nevertheless, the European Union could get round the Treaty if it wants to do so. And it wouldn’t suggest that Britain would have to re-enter by Article 49. They could deem that we hadn’t left.

Professor Vernon Bogdanor, 15 August 2019. / BBC News

This will come as a shock to both Remainers and Brexiters for some obvious different reasons.

Remainers will see it as a piece of great news to build their resistance to a No-Deal Brexit on. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Brexit Day is not necessarily the end. A Remain Parliament elected in a General Election even after 31 October – with a clear Remain mandate – could still decide that the UK had not actually left the EU and overturn the decision. That is what Parliament sovereignty means.

Brexiters will see this news with horror and the feeling of betrayal. They could not be more wrong. How could a Remain Parliament overturn the ‘will of the people’? For the British voters to return a Remain majority in Parliament in a General Election, it would merely mean that, precisely, the ‘will of the people’ has changed. That the 2019 ‘will of the people’ overturned the 2016 ‘will of the people’. It is called democracy. People, voters can – and do – change their minds. As for a Remain Parliament overturning the decision made in 2016, that is also precisely what Professor Bogdanor explained: “Our Parliament is sovereign. It can do what it likes. It can vote retrospectively to deem that we haven’t in fact left.”

Was it not precisely what Vote Leave campaigned for — and Leave voters voted for — and, until very recently, still claimed to be the aim of Brexit... “Regaining our Parliamentary sovereignty”?🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 18 August 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor. - Newly restored North Dial with temporary hands - Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)