Supreme Court confirms Article 50 needs Parliamentary approval

The Supreme Court has this morning ruled against the Government by a majority of 8 to 3 R(Miller & others) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, dismissing the Secretary of State’s appeal and upholding the Divisional Court’s decision of November 2016 that the Government has no legal power to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in order for the UK to leave the EU without the approval of Parliament.

The case was brought by members of Fair Deal for Expats which was heard first in the Divisional Court and on appeal to the Supreme Court to represent the interests of up to two million British nationals who live in other member states of the EU, many of whom were not entitled to vote in the referendum.

The Judgment, whilst widely expected, is nonetheless a landmark decision and will impact on the process for giving effect to the referendum decision to leave the EU. It is unlikely to stop or delay the process and a draft bill can be expected imminently.

The ruling is of considerable constitutional importance. It clarifies and reinforces the constitutional dividing line between the sovereignty of Parliament and the authority of the Government to enter into or withdraw from treaties where they give rise to rights and obligations in domestic law. It may also have significant effects on the constitutional position of the devolved Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

by Tony Mead, Senior Partner