Brexit, in a lot of ways, has pointed out some fatal flaws in the British system of government, as a decision on how to proceed with it has remain deadlocked for so long in a painfully divided country. Tony Benn’s bill represented a set of essential reforms to modernise and improve democracy in the British political system, including the separation of church and state, reforming and codifying a constitution, a republican presidential system elected by both houses of parliament, an elected second chamber (House of People), and an equal representation of gender in parliament. A republican system would be easier to reform, would save the country a substantial cost in subsidising the royal family, and would allow greater democratic representation, arguably making difficult decisions like Brexit less complex and more representative of the electorate.
Arguments over the loss of sovereignty that are commonly heard as justification for leaving the EU by pro-Brexit commentators are not new, and have been part of the political dialogue over European political involvement since Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. The EEC gradually gave rise to the European Union in the name of greater cooperation between European nations, for the continent to not to return to nationalist violence of the past. But Tony Benn argued that rather than discouraging nationalism that such a coercive relinquishment of sovereignty over time would in fact cause an explosion of nationalism, something we are largely seeing now across Europe, and something at definately informed the Brexit vote.
In Benn’s own words: “In a democracy the sovereignty belongs to the people not the parliament, and if the parliament transfers powers away it is stealing rights that don't belong to it, because an MP is lent powers of the public for five years and then you have to hand it back at the next election. But if you give away those powers away to someone else in the next election you can’t repeal the laws that they have made. It is a theft of public rights” . With all the difficulties of Brexit, now would be a crucial time for the UK to revisit Tony Benn’s Commonwealth of Britain Bill, as it would arguably do a better job of addressing the fundamental flaw in the EU that led to the Brexit vote in the first place, and help steer the UK toward a healthier democracy.