Government defeated in Supreme Court Brexit battle
PUBLISHED: 10:18 24 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:05 24 January 2017
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The Government has lost its battle over triggering Article 50 and must now seek a vote in Parliament
Theresa May remains determined to trigger Article 50 before the end March despite losing a bruising Supreme Court battle over Brexit.
By a majority of eight to three, judges rejected the Government’s argument that May could use prerogative powers to trigger the talks under Article 50 of the EU treaties but must first seek Parliament’s approval.
Ministers are now expected to publish a short bill authorising the invocation of Article 50 with votes to take place in the Houses of Commons and Lords soon.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright - who led the Government’s legal fight - said ministers were “disappointed” by the ruling, but added: “The Government will comply with the judgment of the court and do all that is necessary to implement it.”
But there was also relief in Downing Street as the Judges decided the Prime Minister did not have to consult devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50.
However the SNP, the third largest party in the Commons, said it will put forward 50 “serious and substantive” amendments to the legislation.
Former first minister Alex Salmond said: “If Theresa May is intent on being true to her word that Scotland and the other devolved administrations are equal partners in this process, then now is the time to show it.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also promised amendments but said his party would not “frustrate the process for invoking Article 50”.
“Labour is demanding a plan from the Government to ensure it is accountable to Parliament throughout the negotiations and a meaningful vote to ensure the final deal is given parliamentary approval,” he added.
The Liberal Democrats, who have just nine MPs but more than 100 peers, will vote against Article 50 unless there is a guarantee of the public having a vote on the final deal, leader Tim Farron said.
A Government source confirmed Brexit Secretary David Davis will announce in a statement to the Commons that he will be bringing forward legislation to permit the triggering of Article 50.
Remain campaigner Professor AC Grayling said: “The Supreme Court decision was anticipated, and is a vindication of the view that Parliament is the arbiter of what happens in and to our country.
“It now matters that both Houses of Parliament should have a full debate on whether to trigger Article 50, with an unwhipped vote so that parliamentarians can express their genuinely considered and informed view of the UK’s real interests. The referendum was advisory and non-binding, the Leave vote represented only 37% of the electorate and 26% of the total population, so Parliament has an opportunity to save the UK from a disastrous course of action.
“If May’s government tries to hustle a quick short Bill through Parliament it will be a subversion of our Parliamentary democracy, and a contempt of the Supreme Court.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction to the Supreme Court decision is wholly unacceptable. It amounts to saying that there need not have been a Supreme Court decision at all, because he intends the Labour Party to play the role of lapdog to the Brexiteers in the Conservative Government.
“This is a betrayal of more than half the country who wish to remain in the EU. I hope that Labour MPs will take Corbyn’s own oft-repeated example of opposing the leadership line, and along with the best, most honest and intelligent opinion among members of all parties, will vote against triggering Article 50.”
The Supreme Court ruling was welcomed by Gina Miller, the lead claimant in the case against the Government.
Speaking outside the court, she said: “Only Parliament can grant rights to the British people and only Parliament can take them away.
“No government can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged. Parliament alone is sovereign.
“This ruling today means that MPs we have elected will rightfully have the opportunity to bring their invaluable experience and expertise to bear in helping the Government select the best course in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.”
David Greene, the lawyer for the other claimant, pro-Brexit hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, said: “The court has decided that the rights attaching to our membership of the European Union were given by Parliament and can only be taken away by Parliament.
“This is a victory for democracy and the rule of law. We should all welcome it.”