The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom by a majority of 8 to 3
has today confirmed that triggering the exit procedure from the
European Union requires an Act of Parliament.
As such the Supreme Court disagreed with the current UK
Government which had argued that Government ministers could rely on
their prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the
European Union without prior authorisation by Parliament. Scottish
Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies had argued that
they too should be consulted. The judges did not agree with that
This is a big blow for the current Government. The judges held
that triggering Article 50 will bring fundamental change to the
UK's constitutional arrangements by cutting off the source of
EU law and by removing existing domestic rights of UK residents. As
to the Brexit referendum, the Supreme Court confirms its political
significance, however, notes that the statute authorising the
Referendum was mute as to the specific legal consequences resulting
from it. Defining the legal consequences will remain in the power
of Parliament which will have to enact legislation fleshing out the
changes in the law required to implement the referendum. Whether
this will upset Theresa May's timetable of invoking Article 50
by the end of March will have to be seen, the Government certainly
does not think so and is expected to introduce a bill into
In the end the Supreme Court's judgment is unlikely to
change all that much given in particular that the Scottish
Parliament, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies are
unable to exercise any veto. In addition, over the last days
members of Parliament from other parties have indicated their
support for the triggering of Article 50. For those hoping that
Article 50 will not be triggered the question is whether the pro-EU
members of Parliament are able to form a credible opposition in the
time available and will vote as a matter of their conscience.
The uncertainty for companies will remain. The reaction amongst
clients and companies exposed to the UK has been varied so far with
some already moving jobs and operations while others are waiting or
are committing to the UK despite Theresa May's indication on
future steps all supporting a hard Brexit. We are following legal
and political developments in the UK closely and would be delighted
to discuss concerns with you.
Full text of the judgment, transcripts from the hearings and
parties' submissions: here.
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