Brexit – UK Government cannot trigger Article 50 without act of parliament

The British people voted to leave the EU and the government will deliver on their verdict – triggering article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.

— No 10 Spokesman

24th January :- The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK Government cannot trigger Article 50 without act of parliament. The press summary (PDF) explains why the Supreme Court decided the government needs an act of parliament. According to the release;

It is common ground that UK domestic law will change as a result of the UK ceasing to be party to the EU treaties and the rights enjoyed by UK residents granted through EU law will be affected.

The fact that withdrawal from the EU would remove some existing domestic rights of UK residents also renders it impermissible for the Government to withdraw from the EU Treaties without prior Parliamentary authority.

Of the 11 Lord Justices, 8 voted to dismiss the Secretary of State’s appeal (Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption and Lord Hodge).

The 2016 referendum is of great political significance. However, its legal significance is determined by what Parliament included in the statute authorising it, and that statute simply provided for the referendum to be held without specifying the consequences. The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation. The Government accepts that the resolution of the House of Commons on 7 December 2016 calling on ministers to give notice under Article 50 by 31 March 2017 is a political act which does not affect the issues arising in the appeals.

 

The court unanimously concluded that neither section 1 nor section 75 of the NIA is of assistance in this case, and that the Sewel Convention does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation. Meaning the devolved powers of the UK cannot object or stop the triggering of article 50.

The devolution Acts were passed by Parliament on the assumption that the UK would be a member of the EU, but they do not require the UK to remain a member. Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions. Withdrawal from the EU will alter the competence of the devolved institutions, and remove the responsibilities to comply with EU law.

Dissenting Judgement

The Lord’s who dissented the appeal were Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath and Lord Hughes.

The devolution Acts were passed by Parliament on the assumption that the UK would be a member of the EU, but they do not require the UK to remain a member. Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions. Withdrawal from the EU will alter the competence of the devolved institutions, and remove the responsibilities to comply with EU law.

The decision to withdraw from the EU is not a function carried out by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in relation to Northern Ireland within the meaning of section 75 NIA. Moreover, section 1 NIA, which gave the people of Northern Ireland the right to determine whether to remain part of the UK or to become part of a united Ireland, does not regulate any other change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland

No 10 has responded to the judgement. this is from a spokesman.

The British people voted to leave the EU and the government will deliver on their verdict – triggering article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.

The spokesman goes on further to say

 It’s important to remember that parliament backed the referendum by a margin of six to one and has already indicated its support for getting on with the process of exit to the timetable we have set out.

You can read the full judgement by the court here.

Saad Bhatty

Blogger, journalist, geologist and Tech-enthusiast. There is always something to write about!

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