UK Supreme Court starts hearings on Brit-Exit; who has the legal power to trigger Article 50?
The UK Supreme Court has started hearings on the legal challenge regarding whether the UK Government can trigger Article 50 Lisbon Treaty without parliamentary approval. The UK Government argues that it can trigger Article 50 without parliamentary approval (on the basis of so-called prerogative powers). Article 50 is the legal mechanism for a EU Member State to leave the EU.
The UK Supreme Court will hold a series of hearings on the legal issues between 05-08 December 2016. A formal ruling is expected in January 2017. The case is regarded as one of the most important constitutional cases in years.
However, it’s doubtful whether the case will alter the political decision to leave the EU, given that the British political elite has continually stated that it will respect the outcome of the democratic referendum. If the government loses the case, its timetable to leave the EU and secrecy concerning its negotiating strategy might be given a severe blow.
The Supreme Court is hearing the case because the UK Government is appealing a High Court judgement, on 3 November 2016, in which three senior High Court judges ruled that the government did not have the power to trigger Article 50 on the basis of prerogative powers.
The legal proceedings are another farcical twist in the BritExit saga. The trigger for the legal proceedings shed more light in the apathetic preparations to the referendum. It illustrates the forbearance of the last Government and parliament not to make the proper arrangements to avoid such a legal proceeding.
In this context, its unclear whether the current government can fix an unfavorable ruling of the Supreme Court by enacting a new act of parliament. The Supreme’s could ask the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) for help before ruling on the case. The UK Supreme Court could request the ECJ to clarify the meaning of Article 50 – e.g. confirm, an issue that all sides of BritExit agree upon, on the revocability of triggering Article 50. Such a scenario would not only take months, but would be highly painful to supporters of BritExit.
The final irony could be that the ECJ, the EU’s highest court, could be the one to decide on how one of the most important EU member states leaves the EU. Such a scenario could also illustrate the bankruptcy of modern professional politicians, as it might take non-elected French and German judges to rule on one of the most important political issues facing the UK, and the EU in decades.
And I thought that BritExit was meant to give sovereignty back to the British people….