Supreme Court ruling on Brexit
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament.
By a majority of 8 to 3, the Supreme Court has upheld the sovereignty of Parliament as the law-maker of the UK.
The highest court in England and Wales has dismissed the government's argument that it has the power to begin official Brexit negotiations with the rest of the EU without Parliament's prior agreement.
The government wanted to trigger Article 50 using the Royal Prerogative, a set of powers that used to be held by the monarch but now reside with government ministers.
The decision has not overturned the referendum result – it has simply determined which course towards leaving the EU is lawful.
In his ruling, Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, said that the UK government does not have to consult the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50.
The government could challenge the ruling by taking the case to the European Court of Justice – the highest court in the European Union – but this is extremely unlikely given the logistical and political ramifications of doing so.
The justices have now ruled that the Article 50 decision requires the explicit authorisation of Parliament – and this means that both the House of Commons and House of Lords will have to vote in favour of it.
The decision means that a full Bill must be passed by both houses of Parliament and amendments can be made as it goes through this legislative process.
Theresa May has indicated she wants to trigger Article 50 by the end of March and this could mean any Bill will be short and might contain just a single clause.
Although there is still some uncertainty, it is highly unlikely that Brexit will be blocked as the Conservatives have a working majority and many Labour MPs have said they will not stand in the way of the process.
A view from our Chairman
“Today’s judgment by the Supreme Court confirms that Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 to leave the EU until MPs and peers have approved that decision... Once again Brexit has given an (unprecedented) test of our constitution Although it is unclear what form of parliamentary method the Government will now use to trigger Article 50, it is still expected to happen in time for the Government's 31 March deadline”