Government loses legal challenge seeking to stop Theresa May from triggering Article 50

Government loses legal challenge seeking to stop Theresa May from triggering Article 50

Judgment has just been handed down in the High Court in the case seeking to challenge the right of Theresa May to set in train our departure from the EU by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without a further parliamentary vote (previewed here for BrexitCentral by Hugh Bennett).

The claimants have been successful, but the Government will now be expected to appeal.

BrexitCentral Editor, Jonathan Isaby, said:

“Politicians in both Houses passed the legislation that organised the referendum and on 23rd June the British people gave them clear instructions to take the UK out of the European Union. A tiny minority will clearly stop at nothing to try and prevent Brexit, despite more people having voted for it in the referendum than have ever voted for any politician or proposition in British electoral history. This legal challenge is a spurious attempt by a few who were disappointed at the referendum result to frustrate the clearly stated will of the people and it is essential that the Government take all necessary steps to appeal this judgment.”

More reaction as it happened:

14.34: Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, said:

“The people have spoken in this. We have the biggest mandate in history – the result of the referendum must be respected. Parliament voted by 6 to 1 to give the decision to the people – no ifs or buts – and that’s why we are appealing this to get on with delivering the best deal for Britain – the best deal for growth, the best deal for investment, the best deal for jobs. The people want us to get on with it and that’s what we’re going to do.

“…we’re presuming it requires an Act of Parliament – therefore both Commons and Lords [will have a vote on it].”

14.22: Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has released a further statement:

“The high court’s judgment is not a surprise to anyone who has been following this case, and the UK government should now accept this decision rather than take it to the UK supreme court.

“That the UK government is now in the position where the court has ruled against it and is insisting that parliament must vote before article 50 can be triggered underlines the chaos and confusion at the heart of the Tories’ handling of Brexit.

“Let’s be clear – the prime minister has not tried to avoid parliament because of constitutional principles but because any vote in parliament would expose the complete lack of a plan for what Brexit means.

“In whatever eventually comes forward from the UK government to parliament, SNP MPs will not vote in any way that would undermine Scotland’s interests.”

13.59: Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, said:

“The Prime Minister was trying to sideline Parliament and the court has now ruled against her and reminded her that Parliament is sovereign, so the Government needs to urgently review its approach and refer this issue to Parliament where it should be debated.

“Of course there is a mandate for leaving the EU, and we have to accept and respect the result of the referendum. But the terms, and how we leave the EU, are vitally important.

“I really don’t think that, in light of this ruling, the Government can get away with refusing to disclose its negotiating stance.”

13.35: Brexit Select Committee Chairman, Hilary Benn MP, said:

“This is an important judgment on the sovereignty of Parliament. It is not about a decision on whether we are leaving the European Union, because we are – the British people made that choice in the referendum and I think Parliament should uphold it, but there is a debate to be had about what kind of relationship we’re going to have, and therefore the Government’s negotiating objectives are very important in that.”

13.29: Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, added:

“It’s being appealed by the government so we don’t know the outcome of that appeal but what it does mean is that Parliament is going to have to take a decision when the government finally comes up with what its bottom line is on Article 50 clauses. Parliament has to have a say and this is a crucial decision for the future of this country. We’re going to be looking at the issue of market access to Europe, looking at the future of the manufacturing industry, looking at the access of finance services to Europe and of course crucially workplace regulations, environmental regulations and consumer rights. It could delay things of course. Speculation about a general election is always with us.”

13.14: Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has suggested that the Scottish Government may join the legal action against the Government:

“We will look at the judgement very carefully and yes we will actively consider whether to become participants in that case. The judgment this morning I don’t think is a huge surprise to anybody who’s followed the case but it’s hugely significant and it underlines the total chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK government…

“We should remember that their refusal to allow a vote in the House of Commons is not some matter of high constitutional principle, it is because they don’t have a coherent position and they know that if they take their case to the House of Commons that will be exposed.

“The job of this government is to protect Scotland’s interests; Scotland voted to remain in the EU and my job is therefore to protect our place in Europe and the single market as far as I possibly can. SNP MPs in the House of Commons will certainly not vote for anything that undermines the will or the interests of the Scottish people.”

12.19: Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies, said:

“A clear majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union in June, and Parliament’s job is to enact that decision – not to subvert it.

“The people have spoken and their decision must be respected.

“Parliament had its say when the referendum was approved by an Act of Parliament. There is no basis for a further vote in Parliament, other than to aid those seeking to block the path of democracy.

“Any attempts to row back on the referendum result will be met with anger and frustration by the British public.

“This is an unnecessary distraction, and this side-show must not be allowed to distract the UK Government from getting on with the job of negotiating a new relationship with our European neighbours.”

12.12: BrexitCentral editor, Jonathan Isaby, added:

“I think people are going to be very disappointed and very confused by this judgement today… Those who brought this case today are clearly trying to tie the process up in legal knots, delay, or even prevent Brexit, which would be a democratic outrage.

“There is no shortage of opportunities for politicians in both Houses to scrutinise what is going on. What is clear is that the people voted to leave the European Union, and they expect the Government to do that by triggering Article 50.

“The view of the British people is absolutely clear here – they expect it to be done. Those who are trying to challenge it are merely playing legal games to frustrate the will of the British people.”

12.06: Former Labour leadership contender, Owen Smith MP, has called for Labour to amend any Article 50 Bill to include a second referendum on leaving the European Union.

11.55: Wales First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said:

“The High Court ruling is extremely clear – the UK Government cannot trigger Article 50 using the Crown prerogative. Indeed, this is consistent with many of the arguments made by the Leave campaign themselves about Parliamentary sovereignty. It is a mistake, in my view, to challenge such a clear ruling and we should now try and move ahead to develop a fuller understanding of the UK Government’s position.

“The position of the Welsh Government has been consistent throughout – we accept the decision made by the people and will not work against the referendum result. We are working hard to get the best possible exit terms for Wales. However, it is important that votes take place in all four nations to endorse the UK negotiating position.”

11.41: Former Conservative leader and Government minister, Iain Duncan Smith MP, said:

“It’s not the position of the Courts to tell Parliament or the Government how that process should work… their job is to interpret what comes out of Parliament, not to tell Parliament how to go about its functions…

“Parliament passed an Act which gave the British people the right to make the decision about whether we stayed or left. That’s not advisory. It’s absolutely clear that that decision was a binding decision…

“We’re asking for Parliament to have the opportunity to overturn the decision made by the British people… The Government has to have the scope to trigger Article 50…

“What’s going on at the moment is really a group of people who simply don’t accept that decision.”

11.29: The Leader of the House of Commons, David Lidington, has said that the Government will make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday in response to the ruling.

11.20: A European Commission spokesman has declined to comment on the ruling of the High Court.

11.15: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Crispin Blunt MP, said:

“This is a constitutional nonsense that they’ve produced today and it’s very important that the Supreme Court overturn this. Otherwise we’re going to find the unelected House of Lords potentially stopping both the will of the people, and what I’m confident is the overall will of the House of Commons.”

11.13: David Lammy MP, Labour MP for Tottenham has stated that he will vote against any Article 50 bill in Parliament.

11.09: Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, said:

“We are heading for a half Brexit … I’m becoming increasingly worried. I see MPs from all parties saying, oh well, actually we should stay part of the single market, we should continue with our daily financial contributions. I think we could be at the beginning, with this ruling, of a process where there is deliberate, wilful attempt by our political class to betray 17.4m voters…

“I’m not going to disappear. If come spring of 2019 we haven’t left the EU, then I would have to take up full-time campaigning again.”

11.06: Lead claimant against the Government, Gina Miller, said:

“This result today is about all of us: our United Kingdom and our futures.

“It is not about how any of us voted – each of us voted to do what we believed was the right thing for our country.

“This case is about process, not politics. My dedicated legal team – Mishcon de Reya and counsel – are, alongside myself and my supporters, pleased to have played our part in helping form a debate on whether the rights conferred on UK citizens through Parliament legislation 44 years ago could be casually snuffed out by the Executive without Parliament or our elected representatives and without proper prior consultation about the Government’s intentions for Brexit.

“However you voted on 23rd June, we all owe it to our country to uphold the highest standards of transparency and democratic accountability that we are admired and respected for around the world.”

11.02: 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.

“Labour will be pressing the case for a Brexit that works for Britain, putting jobs, living standards and the economy first.”

10.43: Former Justice Minister and Change Britain supporter, Dominic Raab MP, said:

“On 23 June the British people gave a clear mandate for the UK Government to leave the EU and take back control of our borders, laws, money and trade.

“It is disappointing that today the court has chosen to ignore their decision. This case is a plain attempt to block Brexit by people who are out of touch with the country and refuse to accept the result.

“However, the vote to leave the EU was clear and they should not seek to obstruct it.

“Leaving the EU provides us with the opportunity to create a society which works for all. Instead of trying to row back on the referendum result, the country should be moving forward and working together to make a success of Brexit.”

10.37: A Government spokesman said:

“The Government is disappointed by the Court’s judgement.

“The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. The Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.

“We will appeal this judgement.”

10.13: Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, said:

“The Government is disappointed by the Court’s judgement. The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. The Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. This judgement raises important and complex matters of law and it is right that we consider it carefully before deciding how to proceed.”