ShortList is now ad free and supported by you, the users. When you buy through the links on our site we may earn a commission. Learn more

High Court tells government it can’t trigger Brexit

Parliament is going to have to vote on Brexit

High Court tells government it can’t trigger Brexit
03 November 2016

Update: The government has issued a statement saying it is disappointed with the High Court ruling and will appeal the decision in the Supreme Court. Read on to hear what that means

The High Court has ruled that the government does not have the power to enact Article 50 without the say so of Parliament. Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the European Union before Theresa May's government can start enacting Brexit. 

Already the value of the sterling has gone up after the High Court announced its decision, which would indicate that the rest of the world thinks we might have put the brakes on Brexit, but we've only lengthened the track at this point...

Wait, is Brexit still happening? Yes, Brexit is still on. Things just got a lot more complicated though.

Why? Well, anti-Brexit campaigners have long believed that Theresa May's decision to use something called the 'royal prerogative' (which allows her to enact big decisions without needing to go through Parliament) to trigger Article 50 is unconstitutional and illegal. They've taken their case to the UK's High Court, where senior judges have reviewed whether MPs should be able to vote on using Article 50 before Theresa May's government can plough on and get Brexit started. This isn't the High Court giving its own decision on Brexit - it's a matter of law and constitution. Legal stuff.

So? What did the High Court say? Senior judges have just ruled that Parliament must be consulted before Article 50 can be triggered. That means that despite the referendum indicating that 51.9 per cent of the country want to get out of Europe, individual MPs should vote on the matter - making the referendum result more of an indicator of public opinion, rather than an irreversible political act. As to whether MPs would vote to match their constituent's opinions, or vote to reflect a wider party line, is anyone's guess.

What now? The High Court has stated that the government can appeal the decision, which would see the case go to up to an even higher court - the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in the UK. Here, judges would review the case made by anti-Brexit on its legal grounds, and determine if Parliament really does have to give its consent before Theresa May can trigger Article 50.

How long is that going to take? The government is expected to announce if it will make its appeal very quickly. Theresa May had said that she wanted to enact Article 50 by March 2017, and that almost certainly wouldn't be able to happen if Parliament gets to vote on the matter. If the Supreme Court does review the decision, that should happen in December, with a decision arriving in early January. 

Right. That's all? Basically. Keep an eye on your preferred 24 news channel for more on this - it's all fresh territory, so there's a lot of sideways glances being exchanged as everyone wonders what the hell is going on. No one has ever tried to leave the EU before, so we're all learning together.

2016 - never a dull moment, eh?