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The legal view: what you need to know about today's Brexit Supreme Court ruling

Parliament must vote on whether Article 50 is to be triggered, according to today's 8 to 3 decision by the Supreme Court.

Why the decision is important 

The Supreme Court has ruled that MPs must vote on triggering Brexit. Whether or not you voted for Brexit, this decision confirms the supremacy of parliament and means that the executive cannot override rights given through legislation enacted by parliament.

What happens next?

The government has stated that it will now introduce a "straightforward, easily-comprehensible bill". This will need to pass through parliament in the usual way and will be subject to debate in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Does this affect the Brexit timetable?

A bill has been promised in the next few days. But, even if it is published this week, the government's proposed timetable of triggering article 50 by the end of March may be optimistic. The speed at which the bill passes through parliament, however, will depend on its content. If, as has been suggested, it is very short and merely contains a right to trigger Article 50, the Prime Minister may be able to keep to her timetable.

Any hurdles that could further impact government Brexit plans?  

A bill that does just contain a right to trigger Article 50 won't address a lot of concerns about the detail of Brexit. It will therefore be a watching brief on the debate, what amendments are proposed and how the government reacts, to assess any further hurdles or changes of course from a parliamentary perspective. 

Various other claims are currently underway in connection with the UK’s decision to leave the EU. One of these seeks a judicial review of the government’s legal position on membership of the European Economic Area and is due to be heard on 3 February. If the court says that article 127 has to be triggered for the UK to leave the EEA, it could possibly mean another Act of Parliament.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?  

The court unanimously ruled that the government would not have to consult the devolved administrations and that they would not be able to veto the government triggering Article 50. The government has however indicated that all devolved administrations will be involved. 

If you have any further question, or would like a discussion with a member of our Brexit team, please call 0333 0060429 or email brexit@tltsolicitors.com.

Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove-Jones

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2017. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.


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