HFW Briefing – Parliamentary Sovereignty Supreme: UK government still on target for Article 50 Brexit trigger before the of end March

European Union, Legal, Organisations, Politics and Government — By on January 24, 2017 at 7:01 PM


Parliamentary Sovereignty Supreme: UK government still on target for Article 50 Brexit trigger before the end of March

In this briefing we discuss today’s Supreme Court judgment, which upheld the High Court’s ruling requiring an Act of Parliament to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU, the Lisbon Treaty), the mechanism which starts the two year period for negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Supreme Court’s judgment

The appeal focused on the question before the High Court, namely “whether, as a matter of the constitutional law of the United Kingdom, the Crown, acting through the government of the day, is entitled to use its prerogative powers to give notice under Article 50 for the United Kingdom to cease to be a member of the European Union.”

The High Court’s previous judgment was unequivocal. It held that: “… the Secretary of State does not have power under the Crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 of the TEU for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.”

As expected, the government today lost its appeal before the Supreme Court, which by a majority of eight to three, upheld the High Court’s decision that the government does not have power to alter UK domestic law without an Act of Parliament, and cannot therefore press ahead with invoking Article 50 without Parliament’s authority. It should not go unnoticed that for the first time an appeal was heard by all 11 of the Supreme Court’s permanent justices. This underlines, if it was needed, the importance of the question.

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