Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty binds the European Union (EU).
It provides that any member state may withdraw from the EU. Upon notification, the EU shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the EU. The Treaty shall not apply to the State in question from the date of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless the European Council unanimously decides to extend the period.
Against the background of these provisions, the British Government called a referendum on continued membership of the European Union (EU) in June, 2016. 51.9 percent voted to leave the EU. After article 50 was triggered, withdrawal was due to take place on 29 March, 2019. Withdrawal was delayed to 31 October, 2019 after two extensions. With her proposed agreements to leave the EU rejected three times by the House of Commons, Theresa May resigned as Leader of the Conservative Party and, after Boris Johnson won the position, she resigned as Prime Minister and Boris Johnson was appointed.
Johnson promptly declared that Britain will leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal. Johnson then prorogued Parliament for five weeks from September 9 so as to give Members as little time as possible to discuss leaving the EU without a deal. Opposition MPs struck back and with the support of 21 Conservative MPs, who were promptly expelled, passed a law requiring Prime Minister Johnson to seek a three-month extension to January 2020 to leave the EU. Johnson response to the vote was that he would prefer to be “dead in a ditch” than to ask the EU for an extension. Doubletalk has been rife such that several other Ministers have hinted that the Government will obey the law but will not ask the EU for an extension of time, thereby suggesting that the UK will leave the EU without a deal. Many believe, and official reports have confirmed, that leaving the EU without a deal will be catastrophic to the British economy and will be severely disruptive to daily life.
At the recent Sixth Annual Bingham Lecture, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, after calling for procedures to be commenced to prepare a written constitution for the United Kingdom to prevent rule by “executive fiat,” said (quoting from the Guardian): “If we come close to [Johnson ignoring the law], I would imagine parliament would want to cut off that possibility….Neither the limitations of the existing rule book or ticking of the clock will stop it from doing so.” The Speaker said that he is prepared to allow “additional procedural creativity” if necessary to allow parliament to block Johnson from ignoring the law.
In Guyana, there appears to be no one so far who is willing to take a stand to ensure Government’s compliance with the article 106 of the Constitution. The latest possible time on the most generous interpretation of the CCJ’s ruling is that elections should have been held by September 18. But the CCJ did say that elections ought to have been held by March 21 after the passage of the no confidence motion on December 21. It means that by March 21, no National Assembly ought to have been in existence. It ought to have been dissolved long before that date in preparation for the elections. Even allowing for the later date of September 19, which is coming Wednesday, the National Assembly should have been already dissolved.
The dissolution of Guyana’s Parliament occurs in two ways – by proclamation by the President or automatically, five years from the date when the Assembly first meets after any dissolution. The President discretion is absolute only in one respect, that is, if he wishes to call elections before the time is due. The President has no discretion where elections are lawfully due. He/She would normally dissolve the Parliament when elections are lawfully due. But if he/she does not, the Assembly would automatically dissolve at the time set out above.
Article 106, which provides for elections in three months (or longer if Parliament extends the time) after a no confidence motion, does not provide for a dissolution. But by any reasoning or analysis, the Parliament ought to have been dissolved by now in preparation for elections by September 18. Not having been formally dissolved by a proclamation issued by the President, the implied power exists in the Constitution for its automatic dissolution. Since the Parliament is now without any legal status, it is for our Speaker to apply the “procedural creativity” referred to by the Speaker of the House of Commons and declare that having regard to all the circumstances, and that since elections ought to have been held by now, or are soon to be held, the continued existence of Parliament is a legal anomaly which ought not to continue. It also perpetuates a fraud against the Guyanese people by holding back elections. The Speaker should declare that Parliament cannot be convened on October 10 when its recess ends, as it is not in lawful existence.