From the TUC

High court puts #Brexit ball back in Parliament’s court

03 Nov 2016, by in International

Today’s decision by the High Court that the decision about whether and when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal process of negotiating Britain’s exit from the UK will now go to the Supreme Court.

The government does not want Parliament to have the decision-making power, so it is appealing the decision and hoping for the matter to be settled in its favour by Christmas. But whatever the legal rights and wrongs, the TUC has consistently argued that the decision to trigger Article 50 should only be taken after a proper national debate about what sort of Brexit the British people want, as one of our 5 tests.

This isn’t about whether we should leave the European Union. The TUC recognises and respects the decision taken in the referendum on 23 June. But that decision was to leave the EU – it didn’t define what the government should be seeking in terms of its future relationship with the EU. Our priority is to make sure that workers don’t pay the price of the decision to leave the European Union, in terms of rights at work, jobs and investment, and better managed migration. We would welcome a Parliamentary debate on those issues, and even more importantly, a public debate.

Advocates from both sides of the debate should welcome the courts’ decision, which reinforces parliamentary sovereignty over the power of the executive. Despite references to ‘the royal prerogative’, the question of who should exercise the power to invoke Article 50 was between the executive or the legislature – the royal role in this was by and large settled in 1688 when Britain became a constitutional monarchy. And some of the arguments used against the High Court on this issue are deeply suspect – the rule of law, and parliamentary sovereignty, are fundamental principles of British democracy.

Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, said:

“Labour accepts and respects the referendum result and recognises that we are leaving the EU. But the role of Parliament in deciding how we exit is vital. The court made clear today that the Prime Minister was wrong to attempt to sideline the House of Commons and public scrutiny. The government should now urgently review its approach.”