The UK government today lost a landmark legal challenge after the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May must seek Parliament’s consent to take Britain out of the European Union (EU).
The judgement means the British Prime Minister cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to officially begin Brexit negotiations with the EU until Britain s MPs and peers give their backing.
The government had argued that it already had the executive powers to trigger Article 50 but Supreme Court judges rejected the case by a majority of eight to three.
UK Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” but would “comply” and do “all that is necessary” to implement the court’s judgement.
UK Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons within hours after the government lost its appeal.
Downing Street has been preparing for the result for weeks and is understood to have drafted a short Bill to seek parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50.
May has insisted that she will keep to her plan to trigger Brexit by the end of March.
The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union is widely known as Brexit. Following a referendum held on June 23, the UK government intends to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union by the end of March 2017.
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party will seek to amend such a bill to prevent the ruling Conservatives from using Brexit to “turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven off the coast of Europe”.
“Labour is demanding a plan from the government to ensure it is accountable to parliament throughout the negotiations and a meaningful vote to ensure the final deal is given parliamentary approval,” he said.
Labour’s leading Indian-origin MP, Virendra Sharma, added: “It is only right and proper that Parliament should be given proper scrutiny of the government’s Brexit strategy.
“Last year when the public voted to leave the EU they did not necessarily vote to leave the Single Market, the European Medicines Agency or the European Aviation Safety Agency, which certifies aircraft before they are allowed to fly.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said his party would press for a second referendum on the final deal reached between the UK government and the EU.
The case against the government was brought by Miller, an investment fund manager, and hairdresser Deir Tozetti Dos Santos.
Britain had voted in a referendum on June 23 last year in favour of leaving the 28-nation economic bloc by a narrow margin of 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent.
The May government is now finalising details for the country’s relationship with the EU as a non-member.
In a major speech earlier this month, May had confirmed that the UK would be leaving the EU single market and that the final deal struck with Europe will be put before Parliament for a final consent.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, once invoked, will trigger a two-year period within which the UK must strike a new relationship with the EU or effectively leave the economic bloc with no deal.
May has indicated that she intends to implement any new deal in a phased manner after the two-year deadline.