This morning, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
released its judgment inMiller and Dos Santos
v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union— the Brexit Article 50 case. The U.K. government was
appealing its November 2016 loss in the High Court.
In a majority decision, eight of the Supreme Court's 11
judges dismissed the government's appeal and upheld the High
Court's decision that Prime Minister Theresa May and her
government do not have the power to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon
Treaty, which would begin the process of the U.K.'s exit from
the European Union.
The Court confirmed that Parliament's authorization is
required before Brexit can be triggered. The judges were unanimous
in finding that the government does not have to seek the consent of
the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
to the legislation that will now need to be passed to give effect
Key aspects of the judgment
The Supreme Court's
press summary includes the following reasons for judgment:
The fact that withdrawal from the EU would remove some existing
domestic rights of U.K. residents renders it impermissible for the
government to withdraw from the EU Treaties without prior
It would have been open to Parliament when enacting the
European Communities Act 1972 (the ECA) to authorize
ministers to withdraw from the EU Treaties, but clear words would
have been required; not only are there no such clear words, but the
provisions of the ECA indicate that ministers do not have such
The fact that ministers are accountable to Parliament for their
actions is no answer constitutionally, if the power to act does not
exist in the first place and where the exercise of the power would
be irrevocable and pre-empt any Parliamentary action.
Subsequent EU-related legislation and events after 1972,
including the introduction of Parliamentary controls in relation to
decisions made by U.K. ministers at EU level relating to the
competences of the EU or its decision-making processes, but not to
the giving of notice under Article 50(2), are entirely consistent
with an assumption by Parliament that no power existed to withdraw
from the treaties without a statute authorising that course.
The Court's press summary is available for download here, while the full decision is available here.
What happens next?
The Supreme Court's decision is not expected to delay the
U.K.'s exit from the European Union. Prime Minister May has
committed to triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017. David
Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, stated in
the House of Commons today that the government will introduce a
bill within days.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has signalled that Labour MPs will
be encouraged to support any legislation that is put forward to
trigger Article 50. Even accounting for opposition, it is
anticipated that the legislation will pass in both Houses of
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