In breaking news, the Supreme Court has ruled that to trigger Article 50, the legal instrument which will allow the UK to withdraw from the EU, parliament is required to vote on it and approve it before discussions with the EU can commence. Today’s ruling means that the referendum in June 2016 may only be considered as advisory, and cannot be considered as legally binding in any way.
Three groups of Citizens brought a case before the High Court wishing to challenge the government’s interpretation of the law, and the planned procedure of triggering Article 50, and exiting the European Union. These citizens case hinged on the fact that they believed that triggering Article 50, without Parliament first voting to do so, would be unconstitutional and a direct violation of the European Communities Act 1972. The issue with constitutional affairs is that the British constitution is unwritten and relies purely on convention and legal precedent, as Brexit is clearly without precedent, there are many different opinions on what the correct, legally sound outcome should have been.
The High Court ruled, after minimal deliberation, that the UK requires a parliamentary vote before formally starting the process to leave the EU. In response, the UK government launched an appeal in December with the Supreme Court, the highest ruling court in the country, and these are the results that have been announced today. Whilst today’s ruling gives no other right of appeal and will be considered final, it is not yet the end of “Team Brexit’s” legal challenges. Earlier this month, fresh legal proceedings were brought against the Secretary of State by four private citizens, in a hearing before High Court Judge Sir Ross Cranston. This new case centres around the UK’s links with the European Economic Area and the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the UK may not withdraw from the EEA without the approval of HM Treasury, as well as an act of Parliament- the result of which is yet to be announced.
Whilst today’s ruling is a victory for Remainers, it does throw Britain into a period of uncertainty where members of Parliament will be called to vote on a very sensitive issue. Whilst the majority of Parliamentary members are opposed to Brexit, the public voted to leave with over 17 million votes. Many MPs will have to take a carefully considered decision whether to vote for what they believe in, or what their constituents believe in. Whichever way the vote goes, the result will be sure to prove itself controversial and could invoke passionate public responses on a nationwide scale.