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Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom rejected an appeal by the UK government against a decision of the High Court, in respect of the government’s efforts to give effect to the will of the British public following the referendum held on the 23rd of June 2016, by way of triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty thereby marking the beginning of the exit process.
Reading out the ruling, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: ‘By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the Government cannot trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament authorising it to do so.’
The decision means that in the absence of Parliamentary support, the UK government is precluded from commencing the exit process stipulated by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by entering into formal negotiations with the EU. Importantly, the court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered.
It would appear that Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has encountered a major stumbling block, casting further doubt over whether the exit process can be completed within the envisaged 2-year time-frame once article 50 is triggered. That notwithstanding, the decision may ultimately prove to be of limited practical utility to opponents of Brexit, as it is far from certain that even those MPs with strong anti-Brexit convictions, will endeavor to block the process by disregarding the will of the British people. In the aftermath of the decision, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was quoted as saying: ‘Labour respects the result of the referendum and the will of the British people and will not frustrate the process for invoking Article 50.’ According to the BBC, the decision, may, however, open the door for MPs to push for a review of the exit strategy, for example, by adding conditions about the sort of Brexit the government should negotiate.