MPs campaigning against a hard Brexit are cheering a High Court ruling that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without parliamentary permission.
Theresa May’s government, formed in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, claimed it could trigger Article 50 without parliamentary approval, through the use of a Royal Prerogative. Its argument hinged on the 1972 European Communities Act, which it said gave provision for acting in this manner.
But the court said it did not accept the argument put forward by the government, and found “nothing” in the text of the 1972 Act to support it.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “Given the strict two year timetable of exiting the EU once Article 50 is triggered, it is critical that the government now lay out their negotiating to Parliament, before such a vote is held.”
Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said: “Labour accepts and respects the referendum result and recognises that we are leaving the EU. But the role of Parliament in deciding how we exit is vital.
“The court made clear today that the Prime Minister was wrong to attempt to sideline the House of Commons and public scrutiny. The government should now urgently review its approach.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to Parliament on the terms of Brexit.”
The pound has increased in value against the dollar in the wake of the judgement. It may reflect the fact many Remain voters hope Parliament will be able to obstruct a hard Brexit and broker a deal that includes some form of access to the single market, and a more flexible approach to free movement. The vast majority of MPs backed Remain, including a slim majority of Conservatives.
Nicky Morgan, a Tory MP strongly backing Remain, tweeted: “Right that Parliament should vote on legislation to trigger Article 50. Sovereignty regained from EU should go to sovereign UK Parliament.”
Right that Parliament should vote on legislation to trigger Article 50. Sovereignty regained from EU should go to sovereign UK Parliament
— Nicky Morgan (@NickyMorgan01) November 3, 2016
Her fellow Tory Remainer, Anna Soubry, tweeted that the government should accept the court’s ruling.
And in a tongue-in-cheek reference to May’s comment that “Brexit means Brexit”, shadow Home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: “Parliamentary sovereignty means parliamentary sovereignty.”
First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, who is lobbying for a soft Brexit, tweeted that the judgement was “significant indeed”.
The case was brought by Gina Miller, a wealth manager, alongside a crowd-funded group called the People’s Challenge, led by Grahame Pigney, a semi-retired trade unionist.
Pigney told The Staggers he simply believed Parliament should be sovereign. After the verdict, he said he was ready to fight any appeal by the government “with the same vigour and commitment”.