Dublin, Tuesday 24 January, 2017: The UK’s Supreme Court has today upheld, by a majority vote of 8 judges to 3, the ruling that parliamentary approval is required to invoke Article 50. However, the judges unanimously rejected the notion that Westminster has a legal obligation to seek the consent of the devolved administrations before doing so.
The judgement handed down by the Supreme Court determined that “withdrawal [from the EU] makes a fundamental change to the UK’s constitutional arrangements, by cutting off the source of EU law… The UK constitution requires such changes to be effected by Parliamentary legislation”. Adding that, “the fact that withdrawal from the EU would remove some existing domestic rights of UK residents also renders it impermissible for the Government to withdraw from the EU Treaties without prior Parliamentary authority.”
Speaking earlier, Executive Director of EM Ireland, Noelle O Connell, said: “Today’s judgment sets an important precedent that parliament should be fully engaged and have an influence throughout the Brexit negotiations. Although it had been expected that the parliamentary bill now required to invoke Article 50 would pass through Westminster relatively quickly, it is important to remember that it can be subject to amendments and opposition.”
She continued that “although legally the Supreme Court has ruled that Westminster need not seek consent from all of the devolved administrations, politically it is only right that the priorities and concerns of Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh are fully heard and incorporated into the negotiations.”
Ms O Connell added that “from an Irish perspective, the government’s All-Island Civic Dialogue will continue to be an important vehicle in ensuring that Ireland’s unique situation, North and South, is understood on all sides of the Brexit negotiations”.
If UK Prime Minister Theresa May is granted parliamentary approval to invoke Article 50, she must then notify the European Council of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU under the guidelines set out in the Treaty of the European Union. Prime Minister May has committed to invoking Article 50 by the end of March 2017. The EU has been clear that there will be ‘no negotiation without notification’. Only once Article 50 has been formally invoked can negotiations properly begin. In practice there are likely to be two negotiations running in parallel: Article 50 negotiations which will focus on the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU and Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union negotiations which will set out the future agreements between the EU and UK as a non-Member State. However, it is important to note that any final agreement under Article 218 would have to be reached after the conclusion of Article 50 negotiations. EM Ireland will continue to follow closely how the prospective negotiations unfold.