Brexit: High court rules MPs must vote on Article 50

Historic decision curbs Theresa May's bid to bypass parliament


High court judges have ruled MPs must get a vote on triggering Article 50 in a historic ruling that could scupper Theresa May’s bid to bypass parliament on Brexit.

They said government does not have royal prerogative power to give notice of Article 50 being triggered without parliamentary approval.

The verdict is a big win for campaigners and MPs who argue parliament must vote before Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty on EU membership is triggered in March 2017.

However, the government says it will appeal the ruling at the supreme court.

The judges said:

“we hold that the Secretary of State does not have the power under the crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 of the TEU for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has resisted calls for a parliamentary vote before Article 50, fearing MPs could try to block Britain leaving the EU.

The government has suggested parliament will get a vote on the terms of Brexit after negotiations, but could leave the EU with no deal in place if MPs reject the terms.

Pat McFadden, Labour’s former Europe minister, and supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said:

“It was always wrong for the government to try to stop parliament having a meaningful say in how the UK leaves the EU.

The terms on which we leave should be subject to rigorous debate and scrutiny – in parliament and the country.

Parliament should have a clear role in the substance of the Brexit negotiations, not just the process.”

He added: ‘Open Britain is calling on the government to bring forward their substantive plans for the negotiations – in the equivalent of a white paper – to be debated and voted on in parliament before Article 50 is triggered.’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:

“This ruling underlines the need for the government to bring its negotiating terms to parliament without delay.

Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.”

Tim Farron, leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, said the government must ‘pull its socks up’ and give MPs more say, while Brexiter and Tory trade secretary Liam Fox said he was ‘disappointed’ by the result.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said:

“Parliament must have the opportunity to debate and vote on triggering Article 50, rather than a group of ministers at the top table having total control over this country’s future place in the world.”

Today’s legal challenge was brought by businesswoman Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir dos Santos.

The High Court ruling follows Article 50’s author, cross-bench peer Lord Kerr, telling the BBC there was wriggle-room on triggering the article, which was ‘not irrevocable’.

See: Theresa May’s Brexit ‘U-turn’ on MPs vote is a hostage situation, not democracy

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