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Illustration Elizabeth Henson

MPs now have power to scrap Brexit, rules High Court

The decision today means parliament must be given a vote on whether the UK can start negotiations to leave the EU

The High Court has ruled today that the UK government cannot bypass parliament to begin post-Brexit negotiations. Parliament must be given a vote on whether the UK can begin the process to leave the EU.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally notify the European Union of the UK’s motion to leave, can’t be triggered without a formal parliamentary vote. Negotiations to leave can’t begin without Article 50, which Prime minister Theresa May had stated she intended to trigger by the end of March. 

This legal case gained traction in October with a three-day hearing, initially brought to law by the group People’s Challenge. Another hearing in the Supreme Court is expected to happen before the end of 2016, but the government is expected to appeal the recent ruling.

June saw 51.9 per cent of voters in the referendum decide upon Brexit, compared to 48.1 per cent who voted against leaving the EU.

The Lord Chief Justice today ruled that the government’s case was "contrary to fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament".

He added: “The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government. There is nothing in the text of the 1972 Act to support it.”

The summary of the judgement in full is available here

In the wake of the decision, Nigel Farage has said: “I worry that a betrayal may be near at hand. Last night at the Spectator Parliamentary Awards I had a distinct feeling that our political class, who were out in force, do not accept the 23rd of June Referendum result.

“I now fear that every attempt will be made to block or delay the triggering of Article 50. If this is so, they have no idea of the level of public anger they will provoke.”

Gina Miller, one of the claimants from People’s Challenge who brought the case to court, has made a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice, according to BBC News, saying that the government should accept the ruling and give up its right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said of the ruling: “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. So far May’s team have been all over the place when it comes to prioritising what is best for Britain, and it’s time they pull their socks up and start taking this seriously.

“Ultimately, the British people voted for a departure but not for a destination, which is why what really matters is allowing them to vote again on the final deal, giving them the chance to say no to an irresponsible hard Brexit that risks our economy and our job.”