Prime Minister Theresa May must consult Parliament before triggering formal negotiations on Britain leaving the European Union, the nation’s top court said in a landmark ruling on Tuesday.
The 11 Supreme Court judges upheld a High Court ruling and rejected the government’s appeal by a majority of eight to three, said David Neuberger, the Supreme Court’s president.
“In a joint judgment of the majority, the Supreme Court holds that an act of parliament is required to authorize ministers to give notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union,” Neuberger said.
“To proceed otherwise [than consulting parliament] would be a breach of settled constitutional principles,” he said the majority of the judges had agreed.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright, the government’s top legal official, said the government was “disappointed,” but “will comply with the judgment of the court.”
May had suggested earlier that she did not expect the ruling to delay her plan to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU, by the end of March.
David Davis, the government’s Brexit minister, will brief parliament on the government’s Brexit plans at 1330 GMT, Wright told reporters.
But in a boost to May, the Supreme Court judges ruled that the government is not legally obliged to consult devolved parliaments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales before she triggers Article 50.
May is “not legally impelled to consult” the devolved parliaments, Neuberger said, a decision that could help the government to avoid potential delays to its Brexit timetable.
Many analysts had expected the court to uphold the High Court decision, and the government had already drafted a bill for Parliament, according to British media reports.
In a major speech on Brexit last week, May said she planned to negotiate an agreement that involves Britain leaving the EU single market, in what critics called an economically damaging, “hard” Brexit.
She promised that Parliament will vote on the final agreement to leave the EU, most likely in 2019.
A majority of 52 per cent of voters opted to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum on June 23.(dpa/NAN)