The Article 50 Judgment—Pulling the Trigger: Parliament, not Prerogative

7 November 2016
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Key takeaways

  • Senior judges sitting in the High Court have ruled that the government needs the approval of Parliament before giving notice of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union.
  • The findings of the Court proceeded on the basis of the parties’ agreement that a notice under Article 50(2) was irrevocable and nonconditional and, therefore, that citizens’ rights would immediately be affected once Article 50 was invoked.
  • The government has indicated it will take the case to appeal before the Supreme Court in early December 2016. If the judgment is upheld, it is likely to affect the conditions and timing of the government’s announcement that Article 50 will be invoked before April 2017.
  • The judgment is not a decision on the merits of Brexit, but it opens the door for Parliament to refuse to approve or delay the giving of notice under Article 50; whether Parliament does so is a different matter.
  • Whilst Parliament is not legally constrained to vote the same way as the electorate expressed in the referendum of June 2016, there are strong views that politically it cannot adopt a different course from the views of the electorate.