Supreme court ruling
Prime Minister Theresa May does need to have the approval of Parliament before she triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting the procedure for the UK pulling out of the European Union.
But Parliament does not need to consult the assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Brexit.
The decision was handed down by the Supreme Court this morning by Lord Neuberger, sitting with Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge in court number one of the Supreme Court following a High Court ruling that the cabinet ministers do not have the authority to trigger Article 50.
Businesswoman Gina Miller took the government to court and in October the High Court ruled that David Davis, the Brexit secretary, did not have the power to go ahead and trigger article 50 on his own. The government appealed and the matter went to the Supreme Court which this morning gave its judgement.
In his speech, Lord Neuberger first outlined the case and went on to emphasise that the case had nothing to do with whether the UK should or should not exit the European Union. “The main issue is whether the government can trigger Article 50 without the authority of an act of Parliament and in particular whether the legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be consulted,” he said.
By a majority of eight to three, the court decided that the Government could not trigger Article 50 without Parliament authorising that course of action.
The three judges who voted against this judgement were Lords Reed, Carnwath and Hughes.
It is thought that the Government will now introduce a short Bill which will have to go through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, although either of those Houses could insist on amendments to this Bill, which could hold up the process.
In response to the judgement, Attorney General Jeremy Wright MP thanked the judges, adding that the Government was disappointed but would comply with the judgement of the court and will do all that it is necessary to implement it.
“The court has been clear that it it has not been decising whether the United Kingdom should or should not leave the European Union,” he said. “The people of the United Kingdom have already made that decision and now enacting that decision will be a political matter and not a legal matter.”
Mrs Miller said there was no doubt that Brexit was the most divisive issue in a generation but the case was about the legal process of leaving the EU.
“Only Parliament can grant the rights of the British people and only Parliament can take them away,” she said. Parliament alone is sovereign.”