Finance

Government loses High Court Brexit case

By Edward Twist
Finance
Published: 3 November 2016

A group calling itself ‘People’s Challenge’ has dramatically scored a victory over the government in the High Court by ensuring Prime Minister Theresa May cannot activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the mechanism by which the UK starts formal talks on leaving the EU – without first securing a vote in Parliament.

The group, led by business woman Gina Miller, who is an anti-Brexit campaigner, has been accused by Jeremy Wright, the government’s Attorney General, of attempting to subvert the democratic will of the British people by attempting a backdoor bypass of the vote to leave

That vote, back in June of this year, was passed by the majority of the country with 52% in favour of severing our political and financial ties with the EU.

But this has been met with dismay in certain quarters who argue the campaign to leave did not give the public the proper facts and they couldn’t have realised what a dramatic financial cost it would have on the country as well as what it would say about Britain to the rest of the world.

As such, many groups have been unwilling to accept the result of the vote and are fighting hard to get it reversed or its impact greatly reduced. So, in what amounts to a huge constitutional challenge, they launched their challenge in the courts to have the bill scrutinised by MPS first.

Mrs May says that the referendum – and existing ministerial powers – mean MPs do not need to vote, but campaigners have called this unconstitutional and today the High Court has agreed with them.

The government will appeal and a further hearing is expected in the Supreme Court later this year.

Mrs May had previously announced that the government would activate Article 50 by March 2017 as, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but now many delays and challenges are expected to this timetable.

Today’s victory is significant because even though the vast majority of their own constituents will have voted to leave, most MPs are firmly against doing so. This raises the constitutional question of whether they would consider voting down a Brexit bill against the wishes of those they are meant to represent.

Labour MP Pat McFadden, said of the court’s judgement, “This is a positive step but it needs to be more than just a symbolic act.

“It was always wrong for the Government to try to stop Parliament having a meaningful say in how the UK leaves the EU.

“There is a mandate to leave the EU but there is no mandate for a hard, destructive Brexit. The terms on which we leave should be subject to rigorous debate and scrutiny – in Parliament and the country.”