In a decisive move, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that Parliament must approve to trigger Article 50 and begin the proceedings to remove the country from the European Union.
This decision means that Primer Minister Theresa May cannot begin negotiations with EU officials until she receives the go-ahead from Parliament, a move that is expected to occur prior to the government’s March 31st deadline.
The Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides with those in favor of Parliamentary approval claiming that denying Parliament the right to vote would be an affront to democracy.
The government, on the other hand, alleged that it had the right to unilaterally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty under the Royal Prerogative.
In the end, the Supreme Court said, “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so."
The Court also denied the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly the right to vote to approve the triggering of Article 50.
Following the ruling, a government spokesperson said, "The British people voted to leave the EU, and the government will deliver on their verdict - triggering Article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today's ruling does nothing to change that."
Investment manager Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir Tozetti Dos Santos, the two citizens who originally sued the government, were elated by the decision.
Dos Santos said, “The court has decided that the rights attaching to our membership of the European Union were given by Parliament and can only be taken away by Parliament. This is a victory for democracy and the rule of law. We should all welcome it.”
MPs Speak Out on Supreme Court Decision
While a few Labour MPs like Ben Bradshaw have vowed to derail the Brexit process, several believe that it is in the opposition party’s best interest to help with the transition.
MP Kelvin Hopkins said, “My colleagues in the House of Commons need to realize that if we are seen to frustrate the will of the British people, by opposing or delaying Brexit we could find ourselves in a position where we will never see a Labour government again.”
Furthermore, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the opposition will not hinder the process but will introduce a series of amendments for the nation’s benefit.
"Labour will seek to build in the principles of full, tariff-free access to the single market and maintenance of workers' rights and social and environmental protections," Corbyn said.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon took this sentiment a step further, expressing his concern over Theresa May’s vision for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
“What worries me, what worries the Labour Party, is that when Britain leaves the European Union the Conservative government is going to try and use that opportunity as a smokescreen to push through the kind of free-market, bargain-basement tax haven, off the shore of Europe vision that they have,” Burgon told RT.
“So I think it’s got to be, it is of paramount importance, that Parliament gets to scrutinise the particulars of Theresa May’s version of Brexit,” he added.
Soft Brexit Coming Up?
Given these attitudes, analysts believe Brexit will still proceed as planned, some saying a soft Brexit is now much more likely.
Andrew Blick, a lecturer in History at King’s College London, said, ““While this is a major decision in U.K. constitutional history, the political dynamics may mean that the substantive outcome of the U.K. exit from the E.U. is not altered.”
Kallum Pickering, an economist at London’s Berenberg Bank, stated, “MPs will likely nudge government toward a softer Brexit -- one that prioritizes EU single market access over migration controls -- to get the bill over the line.”
According to Reuters, “Media reports have suggested that up to 80 Labour lawmakers (MPs) in the 650-member House of Commons lower chamber would ignore Corbyn and vote against triggering Article 50, while the small Liberal Democrat Party said it would oppose Brexit unless there was a second referendum on the final deal.”
Furthermore, “the Scottish National Party, which has 54 MPs, vowed to put forward 50 "serious and substantive" amendments” to the proceedings.
These numbers, however, are not enough to derail the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In the end, this Supreme Court decision might delay the triggering of Article 50 and force the UK government to miss its self-imposed March 31st deadline.
As reported by Bloomberg, “A bill to implement Article 50 will have to go through five stages in each of the two chambers of Parliament. Although it’s possible to pass emergency legislation in as little as one day, it is rare and the process can take months. There are votes at each stage, and lots of opportunities for dissenters to propose amendments. Both houses must agree on the wording of the final law.”
Former British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith said, “The ability of the government to put through an Act of Parliament without causing further delay in the timetable will surely be strongly tested in the coming weeks.”