Focus moved to Supreme Court as government plans to appeal

Posted By: November 04, 2016

John Aston. Irish News (Belfast). Friday, November 4, 2016

The future of Brexit now appears to rest with the Supreme Court after High Court judges dealt what could be a fatal, historic blow to government plans to use the royal prerogative to start the process of exiting the European Union without the authorization of Parliament.

Three judges unanimously ruled Britain’s prime minister Theresa May does not have the power to bypass MPs, by relying on the prerogative,  to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union,  and begin the two-year period of divorce negotiations with the 27 other countries in the EU bloc.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said to do so would be contrary to “the fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of Parliament”.

The court rejected the government argument that prerogative powers were a legitimate way to give effect “to the will of the people” who voted by a clear majority to leave the European Union in the June referendum.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who defended the government’s case in court, said ministers would be forced to produce a full Act of Parliament in order to trigger Article 50 unless the High Court ruling is overturned.

MPs have suggested that Mrs. May could call a snap general election next year to ensure she has enough supportive MPs to get her Brexit plan through the House of Commons.

Mrs. May’s spokeswoman said it was still the government’s plan to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

The Prime Minister will, at her request, discuss the Brexit process with European Commission president

Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday, Mr. Juncker’s spokesman told reporters in Brussels.

The spokesman said all the other members of the EU would like to see a “swift” notification of Article 50 to begin the Brexit process.

International Development Secretary Liam Fox, a leading Brexiteer, told the House of Commons of the proposed appeal and said the government remained “determined to respect the result of the referendum”.

Brexiteers are now calling for reform of the way judges are appointed.

Downing Street later said that its expectation was that there would be no possibility of appealing to the European courts against the Supreme Court’s eventual decision, as the issue at stake was a question of UK constitutional law and not a disputed point of EU law.