The Spirit of Edmund Burke Stalks Brexit

The parliamentary debate today on Brexit has been fascinating for many reasons. The  quote below from Chris Bryant especially really grabbed my attention as it goes to the heart of the issue, and because it invokes the spirit of Edmund Burke (one of the subjects of my own research on consitutionalism and its foundations).

2016-10-12

The vote in favour of Brexit in June is now being pushed as a mandate for lots of things that were not included in the referendum question. The opposition to Brexit argues that this referendum was never mandatory in the details of the UK exit from the EU (and indeed it was not legislated in those terms), and that parliamentary scrunity and agreement are required before it can be enacted.

So do MPs have a mandate in this matter or not? Or should it be -as Burke would have it- that while an MP should

live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But, his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you; to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the Law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol (4th November 1774)

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