Thursday

27th Jun 2019

UK parliament must give Brexit approval, judges rule

UK prime minister Theresa May will have to obtain the consent of parliament before triggering Article 50, the exit procedure from the European Union, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday (24 January).

The panel of judges rejected by eight to three the government's argument that it had the power to start the exit procedure based on the result of last year's referendum.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The government cannot trigger Article 50 without Parliament authorising that course," Lord Neuberger, president of the court said reading out the judgement.

This means May cannot begin talks with her EU counterparts about leaving the bloc until lawmakers give their backing.

MPs are unlikely to stop the process, although the judgment paves the way for closer parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations.

The judges ruled that withdrawing from the EU makes fundamental changes to the UK's constitutional arrangements and removes some existing domestic rights of UK residents, therefore it requires parliamentary legislation.

"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 court said in the ruling.

Lord Neuberger also added that the judgment is not about leaving the EU or staying in, but about the right of the government to trigger the exit procedure.

Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, said the government was "disappointed" with the decision but would comply with it.

Downing Street confirmed that the government would trigger Article 50 by the end of March as planned.

Gina Miller, an investment manager who launched the case last year, said the victory was about the process and not politics.

"Only parliament can grant right to the British people and only parliament can take them away. No prime minister, no government, can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged. Parliament alone is sovereign," she said.

Miller added that Brexit was "the most divisive issue of a generation", and she was shocked by the level of personal abuse she had received over the last months.

She said she hoped people in powerful positions will be "much quicker in condemning those who cross the lines of common decency and mutual respect".

Political consequences

The high court's ruling last year caused a massive backlash among Brexit supporters, with the Daily Mail newspaper condemning the judges as "enemies of the people".

The response is expected to be more muted this time, as the majority of MPs are expected to go ahead with triggering Brexit.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would not veto triggering Article 50, although some Labour MPs might defy him.

Corbyn said after the ruling that Labour would seek to amend the Article 50 bill to prevent Britain being turned into a tax haven and to defend social and environmental rules.

The Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party are expected to put up resistance.

No veto for the others

The court ruled also ruled that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies did not have the right to veto triggering Brexit.

The judges argued that "relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions".

This did not go down well in Scotland.

Prime minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she would propose an independence referendum if Scotland – which voted in favour of remain last year – is dragged out of the EU against its interests.

After Tuesday's ruling, Sturgeon said: "Although the court has concluded that the UK government is not legally obliged to consult the devolved administrations, there remains a clear political obligation to do so."

Theresa May outlines 'hard Brexit'

The British prime minister confirms that the UK will leave the single market when it leaves the EU and will seek a new trade deal.

UK turns from EU to US in 'new age'

British PM to tell US that the two countries should upgrade their “special relationship” amid plans for early talks on a post-EU trade pact.

Opinion

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU anti-trust chief 'hates' US, Trump says
  2. Finnish presidency hopes for 2050 climate target by 2020
  3. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  4. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  5. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  6. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  7. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  8. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us