Caroline Spelman: Statement on the 'Article 50' Supreme Court Judgement

In the last few hours, the Supreme Court gave notice of its ruling to uphold the High Court’s decision in favour of the claimant on the issue of whether Parliament should vote on triggering Article 50. The vote was carried 8-3.

Following this decision, it is important that we as citizens respect the independence of the judiciary. As Lord Justice Hodge said at the start of this trial, the rights of members of the public to exercise their constitutional right to seek representation in a court of law must be upheld and I have been very disappointed by the way in which some have sought to attack those involved in this case.

In the weeks that have passed since the original High Court judgement, there has been increased speculation and concern that the Brexit process may be derailed and as a consequence of this decision, senior members of the judiciary have come under fierce scrutiny.

Despite some misconception, the question before the High Court, and the Supreme Court, was not whether the United Kingdom can or can’t leave the European Union. It was in fact whether;

“As a matter of constitutional law of the United Kingdom, the Crown – acting through the Government, is entitled to use its prerogative powers to give notice under Article 50 for the UK to cease to be a member of the European Union”.

In short; can the Government alone decide to activate Article 50, or should both Houses of Parliament be legally required to vote on it.
Following this hearing, it has now been decided that under the terms of the British constitution; which exists in the form of various documents including; the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right and the Bill of Rights, Parliament must vote to grant the Prime Minister powers to formally trigger Article 50.

This is not the first time that the Supreme Court have ruled against a Government of the day. However it is important to observe that the powers exercised by this wholly independent organisation, within the boundaries of British sovereign law, are an important part of our system of parliamentary democracy and accountability. Moreover, that in a recent vote Parliament backed the referendum by a margin of six to one, and has already indicated its support for getting on with the process of exit to the timetable that the government has set out.

Following this judgement, the Secretary of State will shortly appear before the House of Commons to set out how the Government will bring in an Act of Parliament to facilitate triggering Article 50 before the end of March 2017.

I understand that some political parties have already expressed their intention to try and make amendments to the motion to trigger Article 50, or to vote to block this process altogether. I believe that this is because they are concerned about the loss of certain protection currently guaranteed by EU law. Therefore, alongside the forthcoming motion on Article 50, the Government will also introduce the Great Repeal Bill. This Bill will transfer all applicable and relevant EU laws into UK Law; ensuring legislative continuity and maintaining the security provided by EU workers’ rights, environmental protections and the Human Rights Act.

This is not to say that Parliament would be forced to keep all existing EU Laws, but by doing this, Parliament as a whole will be given the freedom to carefully consider whether to uphold, amend or repeal all existing British/European laws without being confined by a two year time limit.

Only that way will we be able to guarantee the political, social and economic security that the British people need in the short term, whilst also ensuring that the will of the majority of the electorate is observed.

I did campaign for the UK to remain in the EU, but I have been clear that the result of the ballot box must be respected. The majority of my constituents voted to leave and when Parliament is given a vote on triggering Article 50, I will vote to invoke it.

Caroline Spelman MP