I’m not a political animal but even I haven’t been able to avoid the events of the past week – the Brexit, David Cameron resigning, the Euros, Labour front bench MPS resigning, and a vote of no confidence against Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not sure whether this counts as a constitutional crisis or not.
In fact, there is no official definition of a constitutional crisis, although much of the world press seems to think it’s on the cards that one will happen. Whatever, it’s an unsettling time for us all, and not just in the UK. My fears that the EU will fall apart now have been echoed across the water. I’m amazed that no-one in any position of authority (other than the wonderful Mark Carney at the Bank of England) appears to have planned the next move in the event of a leave vote.
Will Scotland leave the Union? (I think that’s a resounding yes, if Nicola Sturgeon gets her way, but then, surely, Scotland will have to apply to join the EU in its own right? That doesn’t happen overnight.) If so, that would push us closer to a constitutional crisis, surely?
In order for a constitutional crisis to occur, it’s usually necessary for there usually has to be a situation in which the constitutional principles do not answer a serious issue of governance. To add confusion to the mix, Britain doesn’t have a written constitution. It has its written laws, it’s institutions (eg parliament itself) and its customs, all of which have worked pretty well together up until now.
As we don’t have a written constitution, technically, the referendum is not binding on the government. (That said, ignoring the result might be enough to trigger a constitutional crisis.). Not only that, there is a body of legal thought that says that the Scottish Parliament has to give its consent to Britain leaving the EU… That’s an interesting thought.
Has there ever been a constitutional crisis before in the UK? By gad, yes. In 1215, there was the Barons Revolt, which led to King John signing the Magna Carta. That was pretty serious for the King. And then again in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated so that he could marry Wallis Simpson. (Rumours about his being Nazi sympathiser still abound.) So if this does become a constitutional crisis, we will survive it, things just might be messy for a while.
The truth is that none of us knows how this is all going to play out yet, but I might just write to the FA and offer them my services as a career coach…
© Susan Shirley 2016