Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us