Wed 27 January 2021

St Patrick’s day celebrations will provide a temporary respite from the crisis in parliament caused by Brexit, but also a reminder of what we have to lose

London on St Partick’s day always has a joyful feel about it, as our pubs and streets are decked with green and filled with genial revellers of all ages and backgrounds celebrating Irish culture. But this year there will be an undercurrent of sadness and fear…

Sadness over potentially losing the ease of connection and friendship which being part of a common European community provide: fear that the extreme Brexiters are willing to tear up the only part of our domestic constitution underwritten by international treaty: the Good Friday agreement.

For too long we’ve relied on unwritten norms to underpin our governance… We need a written constitution to protect the public.

It’s no surprise many of these hard Brexiters admire Donald Trump. Like the US President, who constantly invokes his spurious and impossible defences across the Mexican border, they want to build a wall that threatens to pit communities against communities and drag the island of Ireland back to the 1970s.

As our writer ‘The Count of The Saxon Shore’ explains the whole character of these British Isles has been borne out of “a superfluidity of cultural identity and an essential internationalism”. The border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is a very recent and temporary aberration.

It’s both ignoble and tragic that so many English MPs are willing the abandon 25 years of peace and the hard work of President Clinton, Senator George Mitchell, and Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair for 10 DUP votes, and purely for the survival of the Conservative party.

Like the US President… they want to build a wall that threatens to pit communities against communities

Perhaps if we had a binding written constitution beyond this small but important international agreement the country might not be in this mess. The EU referendum was ‘advisory’ only, and surely any major constitutional reform (like Brexit) should require a plurality of all voters, as it does in most other states.

For too long we’ve relied on unwritten norms to underpin our governance – norms of honesty, shame, resignation or apology for misleading parliament and the public or breaking ethical rules and professional guidelines. For too long we’ve relied on having relative decent people in power, rather than providing safeguards against the power hungry and ruthless. We need a written constitution to protect the public…

And to tell us what should happen when a Government can no longer govern and an Opposition is unable to oppose.

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