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The Supreme Court issues its decision on “Brexit”

24th January 2017

The Supreme Court issued its decision this morning on whether or not the Government must obtain the authority of Parliament before triggering Article 50, and giving notice to the EU of the UK’s intention to leave.

At shortly after 9.30am this morning, Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, handed down the majority decision of the court, by 8 judges to 3, that the government cannot trigger article 50 without an authorising act of parliament.

Neuberger said the government generally has a prerogative power to change treaties, but it cannot do so if it will affect people’s rights, such as those acquired by Britain entering the EU.

“The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation,” the judges said in the summary of their judgement.

They added: “The supreme court holds that an act of parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the EU.”

The judges reached a unanimous decision by all 11 judges, that UK ministers are not obliged to consult the devolved assemblies, including the Scottish Parliament, and that the Sewel convention, by which Scotland usually has to give legislative consent to any legislation at Westminster affecting devolved matters, “does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation”.

In their summary, the judges stated that, whilst the devolution acts “were passed by parliament on the assumption that the UK would be a member of the EU, but they do not require the UK to remain a member.”

The Government must now place legislation before Parliament, which has all the usual powers to debate and put forward amendments.

If you have any queries on how “Brexit” might affect you or your business, please do get in touch with your usual Morisons’ contact or contact Peter Duff, Managing Partner, to access our range of expertise.

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