UK: High Court Upholds Parliamentary Sovereignty

The High Court ruled last week that the UK Government cannot start the process of leaving the European Union without the approval of Parliament. The ruling states that MPs will be required to vote on whether to trigger Article 50, which would enable the United Kingdom to begin exit negotiations.

While Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that she intends to continue with her plan to trigger Article 50 by her original deadline of March 2017, the High Court judges ruled that it would be unconstitutional to do this unless Parliament grants her the authority to do so.

Government lawyers had attempted to argue that using prerogative powers to overrule Parliament would enable the Government to deliver the “will of the people” following the referendum result, however, the judgement stated that the referendum was advisory and not legally binding. The UK Government intends to appeal this decision next month.

As the UK cannot start exit discussions with the other 27 EU member states until Article 50 is invoked, Brexit campaigners fear that the ruling could mean months of political and legal obstacles which could potentially affect any trade deals being reached.

The High Court”s decision may have given power to any MPs who were in favour of remaining in the EU to argue that Article 50 can only be triggered once favourable terms of the UK”s exit have been agreed upon. As a consensus is unlikely to be reached, many feel that an early general election is a strong possibility.

The full implications of the High Court”s ruling will become clearer over the coming months, although the terms of the UK”s exit being discussed in Parliament increases the likelihood of a so-called “soft Brexit”, possibly meaning access to the single market provided certain conditions are met. One such condition could be retaining freedom of movement of people, an arrangement unlikely to satisfy Leave campaigners who adopted a strong anti-immigration stance throughout the referendum.

Whatever the outcome, immigration is likely to be high on the agenda of any discussions and Newland Chase will be on-hand to provide expert advice and opinion as the events unfold.

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