Triggering Article 50

The Citizenship Foundation, supported by the Bar Council, has created a set of teaching resources that enable students to explore what it means to exercise their democratic rights and the challenge behind ‘triggering Article 50’. The interactive activities help students understand the differences between the powers of Parliament and Government, and how the judiciary helps protect the rule of law. All the resources are curriculum referenced – and support Citizenship, English, Law, Politics and many other areas, including SMSC.

These resources are available for free to schools – and can be downloaded below.

Getting the facts straight

The Chairman of the Bar Council, Andrew Langdon QC, explains why they are working with the Citizenship Foundation to help teachers explain how our democracy functions.

News coverage of the Article 50 case brought constitutional politics, the rule of law, and the role of the judiciary in to the mainstream, but many of the headlines generated more heat than light.

In response to the Government’s defeat in the High Court in 2016, several newspaper editors and politicians attacked the independence and impartiality of our judges. One headline called them “enemies of the people”.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but these claims, made by senior, influential figures in the media and by some politicians, were not supported by the facts or even a rudimentary knowledge of our government and constitution.

It was claimed that judges had undermined the democratic will of the people when in fact the Article 50 ruling did nothing to stop the UK from leaving the EU. The ruling was about how Article 50 could be triggered, not the pros and cons of Brexit, but given the response from some media, young people especially would be forgiven for not making that distinction.

Critics also called the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in to question, ignoring the obvious irony that judicial independence is what enables judges to rule against the Government in the first place. Would these critics prefer a Government appointed judiciary under ministerial control, or perhaps for judges directly to be elected?
Painting unelected judges as pantomime villains trying to obstruct the will of 17.4 million ‘leave’ voters was an irresistible sleight of hand for many in the press, but it was only possible because our constitutional arrangements are not widely known or understood.

We all want the next generation to take part in society and to play an active role in the democratic process and, in order to do that, they must have a better understanding of how our system of democratic government works. We know that teachers are under constant pressure, which is why the Bar Council has supported the Citizenship Foundation in developing these resources, which I urge you to use.

The facts and principles of constitutional politics and law, and specifically the separation of powers between the three branches of Government, and the Rule of Law, are not always easy to grasp, but they are the foundation of the society in which we live, and we hope that these resources will be of help to you and your students.

Andrew Langdon QC, Chairman, Bar Council

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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