Today's High Court decision that the Government cannot trigger Brexit by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without consulting MPs may delay Brexit by a few months but is not likely to stop it altogether, Nicolas Groffman, head of Harrison Clark Rickerbys' international team has said.
He said: This is one of the most important constitutional cases in a decade. It casts doubt on Prime Minister Teresa May's commitment to starting the exit process by March next year, although the Government has already said that it will take the issue to the Supreme Court, probably in December.
"The most immediate effect of the ruling will be felt by UK businesses, because it piles uncertainty on top of uncertainty. Most had achieved a certain level of comfort with the admittedly vague two year timetable, but it is no longer clear when this two year period starts."
The case was brought by a group of private individuals against the Government's Department for Exiting the European Union, on the basis that the Act of Parliament which provided for the referendum on EU membership did not make the vote legally binding. The process for leaving the EU provides for a maximum of two years of negotiations on the terms of exit.
Nicolas explained: The case revolved around royal prerogative powers, previously held by monarchs but now held by the monarch's ministers; ie the Government. The Government's case was that these powers allow the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 without a parliament vote. They did say that Parliament would probably have a vote on whether the deal is acceptable or not after it has been negotiated, but not on the question of when to exit.
"There is a remote possibility that this could halt the process of exit, but even if the Government loses its appeal, MPs will find themselves in an awkward position if it comes to a vote. Parliament had a majority in favour of remaining in the EU, while the voting public were in favour of leaving. MPs are therefore arguably obliged to vote in favour of the referendum result."
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