One of the biggest constitutional matters in British history faced the Supreme Court, which ruled on whether the government can trigger Article 50 without the permission of a Parliamentary Act. Read the full judgment here.
In a majority verdict, of eight justices to three, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament authorising it to do so. Lord Neuberger, on the main reason why it could not, stated that “s.2 of the 1972 Act provides whenever EU Institutions make new laws, they become part of UK law. The Act, therefore makes EU law an independent source of UK law, until Parliament decides otherwise. Withdrawal from the Treaties would cut off a source of UK law and change certain rights of UK citizens. Therefore, permission from an Act of Parliament is required to trigger Article 50.” Essentially, as long as the act remains in force, EU law remains a direct source of UK law.
Other points highlighted in the majority judgement included the format of the legislation. It was made clear that “only legislation which is embodied in a statute will do.” A bill of any length would suffice. Furthermore, Lord Neuberger declared leaving the EU by ministerial decision or action alone would be “inconsistent for such a far-reaching change to constitutional arrangement.” On the issue of whether Article 50, upon being invoked, can be withdrawn, Lord Neuberger made it clear that “it cannot be withdrawn.” Lord Hughes, who formed part of the minority, indicated: “The Act is not changed; it does, however, cease to operate because there are no longer any treaty rules for it to bite upon.”
Not all was negative for the government, however, as no hindrance to the triggering of Article 50 process will arise from the devolved parliaments as they do not need to be consulted. The court, unanimously, ruled that the Sewel Convention on consulting devolved administrations “does not lie within the constitutional remit of the judiciary.” Meaning, the prospect of legislation having to go before parliaments at Holyrood and Stormont is zilch, as with the Welsh Assembly too.
Parliament now bears the decision as to whether or not Article 50 will be invoked. BBC journalist, Laura Kuenssberg reported: “For weeks the government has been preparing to bring law to Parliament, to start the whole process.” Emphasis has been placed on the fact the ruling has no concern about if Article 50 should be triggered. Gina Miller, who initiated the court case against the British Government, stated: “This case was about process, not politics.” Lord Neuberger also highlighted that the role of the judges has “nothing to do with issues such as the wisdom of the decision to withdraw from the EU… Those are all political issues which are matters for Parliament to resolve.”
Theresa May is to fast-track legislation keep her Brexit plan on track. A concise bill is expected to be published 26 January 2017, giving her full authority to invoke Article 50 at her discretion; she expects it to be passed by mid-March, allowing her original timetable to be upheld. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, stated: “A short and straightforward Brexit bill will be published.” Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that a three-line whip will be imposed to vote for the bill, MPs with constituencies that voted to remain are agonising about the decision to defy the party line. Mr Davis’ counter-part, Shadow Secretary Keir Starmer, stated there are “big gaps, inconsistencies, and unanswered questions in the Prime Minister’s approach,” and that “Labour accepts and respects the referendum results and will not frustrate the process, but will seek to amendments to ensure proper scrutiny and accountability.”
Ahead of the ruling, changes have occurred in various markets. Most notably, however, is the Pound Sterling incline against the Euro. On 25 January, it increased from 1.68 to 1.70, between 9:10am and 9:20am. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has forecasted a decline in the UK’s GDP this year, but forecasted an increase in 2018. Companies from British airline EasyJet to telecommunications firm BT Group, have noted Brexit-related problems such as a weaker pound and a loss of business. BT Group’s share price also declined more than 19 per cent. Some economists, surveyed by Bloomberg, predict a slowing UK growth in 2017. Nevertheless, the UK’s performance, since the vote in June, has defied economic predictions and maintained its momentum. Most of this is attributed to the services sector and consumer spending, but may come under strain from an overall declining pound, leading to inflation. WH Smith has commented: “the referendum has not hurt sales so far”. Furthermore, they expect full-year profit growth to be slightly better than expectations, ahead of strong sales in its travel business over Christmas. In terms of blue-chip companies, on 25 January, The Dow Jones Industrial Average Index has attained the 20,000 benchmark for the first time in its history.