The UK’s High Court has ruled against Theresa May’s government on whether parliamentary approval is needed to trigger Article 50, in a decision that could have devastating consequences for the prime minister’s Brexit plans.
The landmark decision, announced this morning (3 November), means that the UK government will not be allowed to use Royal Prerogative to bypass parliament and start its divorce talks with the EU without a vote. The government has already announced that it will appeal the ruling.
In a statement read out to the court, the judges said that “The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government.”
The case was brought by London businesswoman Gina Miller, who argued triggering Article 50 would mean the loss of statutory rights enjoyed by UK and EU citizens alike.
The government’s appeal will be heard by the UK’s Supreme Court and a full panel of judges on 7 December, just two and a half months before the deadline Theresa May set for herself when she announced that Article 50 would be triggered in March.
More interestingly still, the case could even go all the way to the European Court of Justice, at which stage May would probably have to tone down the veracity of the ‘hard Brexit’ her government currently seems on a course for.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon merely tweeted that the decision was “significant”.
Brexit’s chief paladins were quick to react to the court’s decision. Former/interim/current (3 November) UKIP leader Nigel Farage called the ruling the beginning of a “wilful attempt by our political class to betray 17.4 million voters”. Farage also said that if the UK isn’t out of the EU by 2019 then he will return to campaigning “full time’.
His UKIP colleague, Patrick O’Flynn, tweeted that the Remain camp had “learned nothing from 23 June. They will lose again.”
Former Justice Minister Dominic Raab, who supported Leave, told BBC News that the decision was “opening a can of worms” and hoped that the appeal will “put the lid back on”.
The decision casts further doubts on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. The new prime minister has been widely criticised for lacking a plan of how to go about leaving the EU and what kind of relationship the UK will have with the bloc once it is out.
However, this decision is not a ruling on the referendum result and even if May loses her appeals, MPs will still be faced with the prospect of voting against the wishes of the majority of their constituents, as the tweet below illustrates.
— David Sheppard (@OilSheppard) November 3, 2016
In financial markets, the pound jumped 1% following the news that Westminster had lost the case, following weeks of poor performance. Bookmakers were also slashing the odds of an early election being called and of a second referendum being held before 2019.
I now fear every attempt will be made to block or delay triggering Article 50. They have no idea level of public anger they will provoke.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 3, 2016
Good news that MPs will get a vote on triggering Article 50. The British people must also get a vote on the final deal. #Article50
— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) November 3, 2016
Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, in the Commons: "The Government is disappointed by the court's decision."
— Kristiina Cooper (@KristiinaCooper) November 3, 2016