Supreme Court to hear government appeal over Brexit powers
The Supreme Court will begin a landmark legal hearing on Monday into whether Parliament’s consent is required before official Brexit negotiations can begin.
Its 11 justices will hear a government appeal against last month’s High Court ruling that only Parliament has the authority to trigger Article 50.
The hearing, to be streamed live by the BBC, is expected to last four days, with the verdict expected in January.
The outcome will have implications for Theresa May’s strategy for EU exit.
The UK voted to leave the EU, by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%, in a referendum in June.
The prime minister has said she intends to officially notify the rest of the EU of the UK’s intention to leave – beginning two years of talks over the terms of separation – by the end of March.
But campaigners, led by investment manager Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, insist that decision can only be taken by Parliament.
Monday’s hearing begins at 11:00 GMT with the government putting forward its case.
The High Court ruled in Ms Miller’s favour, arguing that rights conferred by Parliament when it passed the 1972 European Communities Act – which paved the way for the UK to join the then European Economic Community – were likely to be affected by Brexit.
As a result, it concluded, any process leading to the potential withdrawal of rights could only be determined by Parliament.
In its judgement, the High Court ruled “the powerful constitutional principle that the Crown has no power to alter the law of the land by use of its prerogative powers is the product of an especially strong constitutional tradition in the UK”.
The ruling led to criticism from some elements of the press and Brexit-supporting MPs, but in her submission ahead of Monday’s hearing, Ms Miller said the Court had a “duty to decide questions of law”.
Labour has said it will try to amend an Article 50 bill – if one is required – to ensure single market access and workers’ rights are protected.
But shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti said her party would not try to veto Brexit.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have been completely clear that we are democrats and respect the outcome of the referendum, even though many of us – myself included – campaigned in the opposite direction.
“So this will happen, pursuant to the will of the people. But there is not a simple question of ‘in and out of the European Union’, there are many questions that Parliament has to scrutinise about what happens next.”
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