Huge news this morning as the High Court ruled that the Government can’t trigger formal Brexit negotiations (‘Article 50’) without getting Parliament’s approval first. And the judgment is all about fundamental rights – the rights of British citizens and who can (and who cannot) take them away.
1. Membership of the European Union has given many rights to British citizens, such as free movement across Europe and rights under the European Union Charter. See more here.
2. The key focus of the case was about the constitutional principle that the government can’t use its “prerogative powers” to overrule Parliament when to do so would mean taking away rights of British citizens which were granted by Parliament. Our constitutional system is finely balanced but generally, Parliament is supreme.
3. The court decided that the Government can’t exercise Article 50 (therefore triggering an almost inevitable exit from the EU) without getting Parliament’s approval first. This is because only Parliament could take away the rights that Parliament has granted to British citizens through decades of EU laws.
4. The judges emphasised that the 2016 EU Referendum was not and was never intended to be binding on Parliament. It did not overrule the fundamental principle of the ‘sovereignty of Parliament’. It was advisory only, as the Government itself explained to MPs at the time in a briefing paper.
5. The next step is likely to be an appeal to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court. The court has already said it will sit with its maximum of 11 justices, probably in early December.