The People vs. Parliament: Hayek and the Role of Parliamentary Sovereignty in the Brexit Crisis
This paper explores the rise of right-wing anti-parliamentary populism in the context of efforts by the British government in 2019 to secure the passage of an E.U. withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons. It claims that the Johnson government’s discourse during this period followed in the tradition of neoliberal constitutionalism in two ways. First, through the cultivation of the idea that the opposition parties used parliament as an instrument to deliberately restrict the executive from realizing the Brexit referendum result. Second, by reinterpreting the idea of sovereignty to suggest that it is vested in the fictional idea of “the People,” rather than parliament. Anchored in Hayek’s perspective that parliamentary sovereignty is the essential problem with contemporary liberalism, this strategy justifies the concentration of power in the executive by advancing the logic that only it can serve as an adequate “check” against the arbitrary powers of an unrestrained legislature.
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