Wednesday

23rd Sep 2020

UK releases legal arguments on Article 50

  • May and her government argues that there is no further need for parliamentary authorisation for Brexit (Photo: 10 Downing Street)

The British government was forced by a judge to release its legal arguments for refusing to let the parliament decide when and how the UK should trigger the article 50 procedure to withdraw from the EU.

The legal arguments released on Wednesday (29 September) argue that it is “constitutionally impermissible” for parliament to be given the authority to launch the exit procedure.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In a court challenge by a group of UK citizens, the British government argued it is the prime minister's prerogative to trigger the exit process, as the parliamentary act establishing the 23 June referendum did not foresee any further action for the parliament after the vote.

"It was clearly understood that the government would give effect to the result of the referendum for which the 2015 Act provided, and that was the basis on which the electorate vote in the referendum," the legal defence says.

"The 2015 Act did not prescribe steps which the government was required tot make in the event of a leave vote," it added.

"It [the government] cannot be prevented from doing so [launching article 50] by the absence of primary legislation authorising that step," the government argues.

It also adds that “treaty-making and withdrawal from treaties is not generally subject to Parliamentary control”.

“The appropriate point at which the UK should begin the procedure required by Article 50 to give effect to [the notification] is a matter of high, if not the highest policy,” the government’s lawyers argue in the document.

A two-year negotiating period will start once the UK triggers the exit procedure, which prime minister Theresa May is expected to launch early next year.

The EU has so far refused any preliminary negotiations until article 50 is officially triggered.

Challenge

The release of the documents came after the crowd-funded People’s Challenge initiative questioned Theresa May’s authority to trigger Brexit in court without parliamentary authorisation, and last week called for the government's legal defence to be made public.

The judge, Justice Cranston, who ordered the release on Tuesday, said: “Against the background of the principle of open justice, it is difficult to see a justification for restricting publication of documents which are generally available under the rules.”

In its legal defence however, the government says the parliament will have "the role in ensuring that the Government achieves the best outcome for the UK through negotiations".

But the government's legal defence also makes it clear that the local legislations in other parts of the UK will not be able to override the triggering of the exit procedure.

They dismiss the idea that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will have a say in the divorce procedure.

The government's layers argue that “devolved legislatures” have no competencies over foreign relations issues, including relations with the EU and its institutions.

British prime minister Theresa May earlier assured Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the Remain camp won the Brexit vote, that she would not trigger Article 50 until there is a UK “approach and objectives”.

'Constitutional vandalism'

The People’s Challenge to the Government on Article 50, a crowd-funded initiative that argues for that it is up to the parliament to trigger the exit procedure, was set up by Grahame Pigney.

On the campaign’s website he argues that his goal is not to ignore the Leave voters who opted for Brexit, but to “ensure that parliamentary Sovereignty is maintained and is respected by the Government”, and that the "rights of 65 million UK citizens are protected”.

The campaign calls the government’s actions “constitutional vandalism”.

"By using the Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon this Government will be sweeping away rights at a stroke of a pen without the proper scrutiny of and a final decision being made by our Sovereign Parliament,” they argue.

A hearing for a test case will start on 13 October.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Post-Brexit party games

The British party conference season has started, with Labour re-electing its leader but staying ambivalent on EU relations.

British MPs battling for a say on Brexit

Conservative and Labour MPs want to be able to vote on the government's negotiating position with the EU, with some even considering joining a legal challenge.

Tusk warns UK on harsh realities of Brexit

EU Council chief Donald Tusk told London there will be no winners from Brexit, and no compromise on freedom of movement, yet held out an olive branch for the future.

May: Brexit is 'quiet revolution'

The British prime minister concluded the Tory party conference in the UK by pledging to regain control of immigration and by taking a swipe at pro-EU elites.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Roma life expectancy '10 years lower'
  2. US corona death toll passes 200,000
  3. Greece and Turkey agree to resume talks in Istanbul
  4. Seven countries found MidEast energy forum, without Turkey
  5. Four more states join EU medical strategic stockpile
  6. Malta police arrest chief of staff of ex-PM
  7. EP pushing for effective rule-of-law mechanism
  8. France opposes return EU deficit rules after corona

EU warns UK to abide by Brexit political declaration

"No significant progress" has been made on the latest round of talks between the UK and EU on how their relationship should look from January, according to Michel Barnier. The EU told UK to stick to its prior commitments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link
  2. EU states struggle to better sync Covid-19 measures
  3. EP groups drop homophobe from Sakharov prize
  4. Legal complaint filed with EU Commission over migration
  5. Coronavirus: Will a second wave divide Europe again?
  6. Coronavirus: the Swedish model was worth emulating
  7. Time to fix Europe's broken migration and asylum system
  8. Covid-19: How is Eastern Europe bracing for a second wave?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us