Brexit: Court rules UK Parliament must greenlight article 50

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the British government cannot trigger article 50 without parliamentary approval.

A man waves a European Union flag outside the Supreme Court | Photo credit: Press Association

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

24 Jan 2017

The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that the British government cannot trigger article 50 without the authorisation of the country’s Parliament.

A majority of Supreme Court judges believed that withdrawing from the EU would materially affect laws and rights, and should therefore be authorised by the Westminster Parliament.

President of the Court, Lord Neuberger, said. “By a majority of eight to three the Supreme Court rules that the Government cannot trigger article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so."


The decision, viewed as more of a legal formality than a serious challenge opposing Brexit, is unlikely to delay British Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to trigger article 50 by the end of March.

MEPs were quick to react on Twitter, with many praising the ruling.

British Conservative MEPs, supportive of Theresa May’s March timetable, played down the impact of the ruling, with Amjad Bashir saying the decision changed little about the Brexit negotiating timetable.

 "I was quite relaxed about the original High Court decision because I have never believed MPs would be silly enough to block the will of the people, “said Bashir.

"We don't want MPs trying to dictate the Prime Minister's negotiation strategy either, but I don't think they will attempt that now after she so effectively set out her priorities last week.

"She has handled things so well that the court case has turned out not to matter so much either way. Now we need to get on with the hard work of negotiation."

Fellow Conservative deputy Anthea Mcintyre said UK policymakers should must respect the court’s decision, but also respect May’s negotiating plans too.

"I fully respect the right of parliament to scrutinise this vital process, but what is important now is that MPs allow our Prime Minister to get on with the job of negotiation without delay or objection,” said Mcintyre.

“We must recognise parliament's right to examine and influence the Brexit process but not to block it.”

Syed Kamall the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, where British Conservative MEPs sit, echoed his fellow deputies, saying, "While MPs are entitled to scrutinise, they must not be allowed to dictate or undermine our Prime Minister's negotiation strategy.”

"There was uproar when the High Court issued its initial decision, but to me it was never such a big deal. If MPs are to have a say on invoking Article 50 then so be it. I have always trusted in the UK Parliament not to defy the will of the people by blocking the start of negotiations.

However veteran German Socialist MEP Jo Leinen suggested the Supreme Court’s decision kept the door open for any change of heart by British MPs on leaving the EU.

"As a parliamentarian and a democrat I welcome the Supreme Court ruling. It should fall upon the UK Parliament to decide whether the rights conferred upon British citizens by Parliament can be removed due to Britain's exit from the EU,” said Leinen.

"We have a long negotiation ahead of us and we must keep the interests of people in mind, not least the British people. If at any stage they feel that life outside of the EU pales by comparison to life inside the EU, they can rest assured that the EU will be prepared to see an end to the Article 50 process and welcome our British friends back."

The court also said that the devolved Parliaments - in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - would not have to give their consent, which triggered an angry response from Scottish Nationalist MEP Alyn Smith.

The majority of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to retain EU membership during last years Brexit referendum.

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