The United Kingdom's Supreme Court has, by a majority of 8 to 3, dismissed the appeal by the Government on the Brexit litigation and ruled that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise the Government to give notice to trigger Article 50. At the same time it rejected, unanimously, the contention that consultation with, or the agreement of, the devolved legislatures of Scotland and Northern Ireland is required. No further appeal to either decision is possible.
Why is a vote in Parliament required?
The Supreme Court considered that the terms of the European Communities Act 1972 (ECA), which gave effect to the UK's membership of the EU, are inconsistent with the exercise by ministers of any power to withdraw from the EU treaties without authorisation by a prior Act of Parliament.
It was common ground in the litigation that UK domestic law will change as a result of the UK ceasing to be party to the EU treaties and the rights enjoyed by UK residents granted through EU law will be affected. The Supreme Court concluded that the fact that withdrawal from the EU would remove some existing domestic rights of UK residents also renders it impermissible for the Government to withdraw from the EU Treaties without prior Parliamentary authority in the form of an Act of Parliament.
The Court did not make any comment as to the form that such approval must take and indeed noted that an Act of Parliament approving the exercise of Article 50 may be very brief.
How did the Government react?
In a statement to the House of Commons a few hours after the judgement was handed down, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, indicated that the Government intends "shortly" to introduce "the most straightforward Bill possible" to grant authority to the Government to exercise Article 50, and that it intends to keep to the previously announced timetable, namely to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
A draft Bill is expected to be tabled by the Government in the coming days (possibly even by tomorrow).
Please click on the file below to read the full Client Alert, including a projected timeline.