The UK Supreme Court has overwhelmingly rejected the Governments appeal to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary vote in its ruling earlier today.
The ruling follows the earlier defeat of the Government in the high court in November and means it cannot use prerogative powers to trigger article 50 of the treaty of Lisbon, beginning Britain’s exit from the EU.
Eleven of the Twelve Supreme Court justices sat in on the case, with the ruling passing by a vote of 8 to 3 in favour of dismissing the appeal of the earlier high court decision.
In his summarising remarks, Lord Justice Neuberger said “Section 2 of the 1972 [European Communities] Act provides that, whenever EU institutions make new laws, those new laws become part of UK law. The 1972 act therefore makes EU law an independent source of UK law, until parliament decides otherwise.
Therefore, when the UK withdraws from the EU treaties, a source of UK law will be cut off. Further, certain rights enjoyed by UK citizens will be changed. Therefore, the government cannot trigger article 50 without parliament authorising that course.”
Gina Miller, the campaigner who led the legal challenge against the Government welcomed the ruling saying “No prime minister, no government can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged. Parliament alone is sovereign.”
In the wake of the Supreme Courts ruling David Davis, the governments minister in charge of exiting the EU delivered the government’s response in a parliamentary statement in which he announced the publication of a ‘straightforward’ Brexit bill to be put before Parliament in the coming days.
Addressing the ruling directly, Mr Davis said “This will be the most straightforward bill possible to give effect to the decision of the people and respect the supreme court’s judgement.”
He later reasserted the Government’s commitment to triggering Article 50 at the end of March saying that “This timetable has already been supported by this house.”
Labour’s shadow secretary for exiting the EU, Keir Starmer has called for the government to publish a white paper on Brexit saying “Labour accepts and respects the referendum result and will not frustrate the process. But we will be seeking to lay amendments to ensure proper scrutiny and accountability throughout the process. That starts with a white paper or plan. A speech is not a white paper or plan, and we need something to hold the government to account throughout the process. You can’t have a speech as the only basis for accountability for two years or more.”
The Supreme Court has also ruled that UK ministers are not obliged to consult with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland during the Brexit negotiations. The Judges added that “the devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU.”
However the Government has said that it will include all of the devolved administrations in its deliberations in a move which will it hopes quell the dissent that is bound to occur in both the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
While many will question the need for this case, given the government’s willingness to include Parliament in the Brexit process (as indicated by Theresa May’s speech last Tuesday) this writer regards the ruling as a victory for the British legal system in asserting the rights of its people.
Also, the case bought by Ms Miller and her compatriots has undoubtedly forced the government to rethink its position on Parliamentary inclusion in the negotiations with Mrs May’s speech and today’s Brexit bill being the natural result.