This weak presented a little hiccup for Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations. The High Court ruled that the Prime Minister cannot trigger Article 50, beginning the process of leaving the EU, without approval from MPs – something she previously said that she didn’t want to have to get.
The problem for May here is that she previously said that she wanted to trigger Article 50 by March. If this verdict is upheld it would seem that the process will now take longer. However, the Government is now appealing once again and the case will now be seen by the Supreme Court – the highest in the country(ish).
May has said that she is ‘confident’ that the Government will win the appeal. However, the case won’t be heard until 7th December, delaying proceedings for another month. And, of course, there’s no guarantee that that will be the case.
Let’s say that MPs do have to vote on Brexit though, what would that mean? Firstly a huge delay, there would have to be a debate and that could take several weeks to schedule: it certainly wouldn’t be done until next year. Secondly and more importantly though is the question of whether or not MPs will honour the will of the British people and back the triggering of Article 50?
The answer to that would be, I think, a resounding yes. A recent survey by The People’s Pledge found that 480 of the Commons’ 650 MPs would back a bill to trigger Article 50 (although the majority of them would do it just to honour the views of their constituents). In addition, May also has the backing of the majority of Tory MPs – good for her in the long-term regardless of the type of Brexit that she chooses.
So overall, the answer is no. I don’t think this High Court ruling actually matters. However, whatever the Supreme Court verdict, it is worth noting that May will have her work cut out if she wants to meet her March deadline (personally, I think it looks unlikely). Plus, even is she does win in the Supreme Court, Gina Miller (the businesswoman who brought about the case) and her team are likely to appeal the result. It is likely to go to the European Court of Justice as a result – the top, top, top court!
To conclude then, Article 50 will still be triggered and the UK will still leave the EU but it may take quite a bit longer. The Government expected a delay… just not one this long.