Triggering 'Article 50' - the High Court Judgement

Following the result of the June’s Referendum, the Government has a mandate from the British people to trigger Article 50 and leave the European Union. However, following last week’s High Court decision there has been increased speculation and concern that the Brexit process may be derailed.

Despite some misconception, the question before the High Court in this case (Miller vs. the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union) was not whether the United Kingdom is able to trigger Article 50 and 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 active Article 50, or should both House of Parliament be legally required to vote on it.

The three High Court judges ruled in favour of the claimant; stating that they believed that the Government could not legally trigger Article 50 without consulting Parliament. They argued that this was because the 1972 European Communities Act – the adopted legal channel through which the UK joined the European Union - is enshrined in British law and, that the terms of our constitution clearly state that neither the Government, Prime Minister, or head of state, acting alone, can repeal or change domestic laws without the support of the majority of Parliament.

The Government remains determined the see the will of the British People exercised and in spite of this ruling, will not only appeal this decision but will be working in Parliament to see the UK triggers Article 50 before March 2017.

However, we must respect the independence of the judiciary and the constitutional right of British citizens to seek representation in a court of law. For that reason, I condemn the attacks that have been made on respected members of the legal community and those who have sought to present this case in recent days.

Finally, I would like to make clear that whatever my personal views on the matter; and many of you will know I campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU - I respect the outcome of the Referendum and would vote for Article 50 if required to deliver it.

Dame Caroline Spelman


Attachment Size
3.11.16 Summary | Miller Vs. Secretary of State for Exiting The European Union 150.19 KB
3.11.16 Judgement | Miller Vs. Secretary of State for Exiting The European Union 3 MB