The foundations of our countries constitution were adamantly defended last week when a High Court decisions ruled that Theresa May does not have the authority, or prerogative, to implement Article 50 without Parliamentary approval. The decision comes at a time of great economic and political uncertainty within the EU, which is facing increasing challenges to its major banks and trading relations.
This petition to the High Court was first put forward by businesswoman and Philanthropist, Gina Miller. Throughout her campaign Ms Miller was adamant such actions were not an attempt to overturn the referendum decision this June. Instead Miller claimed her intentions were merely to ensure a stable and certain European exit, by allowing the courts to rule on the powers and authority that May and her cabinet possess.
Despite such intentions Gina Miller reported an onslaught of abuse and hatred from individuals soon after the verdict. Such discontent was also shown towards the three senior judges of the High Court, with the Daily Mail in particular branding them ‘enemies of the people’.
The question many people now ask is will such a ruling prevent Brexit from happening?
The simple answer to this is no. Although May has been given leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court in December, the main issue that will debated is not whether Britain should leave the EU, but how the Prime Minister should go about this.
Currently Theresa May is claiming that the Conservative government have executive powers to implement Article 50 without the consent of Parliament, due to the principle of Royal Prerogative. Such a claim is quite ‘revolutionary’, largely as it bypasses the systems of checks and balances within our government, all of which are intended to regulate political actions and behaviour.
The Rule of Law is a particular term that has been associated with this system of regulation recently. Plainly put it means that only Parliament has the authority to create/remove existing laws and legislation within Britain, and that no one else can override this power. The Prime Ministers attempts to bypass Parliament challenges this core principles of our constitution therefore, undermining the values and certainty provided by the Rule of Law.
Whilst the High Court’s overall decision may seem to be a potential threat to Britain’s exit from the EU therefore, it really isn’t. All the High Court have done is uphold the Rule of Law doctrine within our country and remind the Prime Minister that she does not have the authority to bypass Parliament within this major constitutional decision.
The final question that needs to be addressed is what all of this will mean for Britain’s future withdrawal from the EU.
I mentioned earlier within my article that the High Court have given Theresa May the right to appeal to the Supreme Court on this issue. This will be the first time that all 11 judges of the Supreme Court will sit on a case, which evidences the constitutional importance that it beats.
At the moment is hard to predict which way the Supreme Court will decide, but Nicola Sturgeon has declared that Scotland’s Top Law Officer will argue against Britain in their appeal, in an attempt to uphold the principles of our constitution.
Both the Scottish Fist Minister and Jeremy Corbyn have also stated that should Parliament be given a vote on Article 50, both the SNP and Labour will push for a ‘soft’ Brexit, which needs to be openly discussed and debated, in order to secure the best possible deal for the country.
Despite such uncertainty May is still optimistic that Britain will stick to its plan of activating Article 50 by next March. How smoothly this will go for the Prime Minister is still up for debate, particularly as many argue May will be unable to appease both Hard-lined Brexitiers within her cabinet, as well as those favouring a softer approach by Parliament.
Whilst the future path of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU remains unclear therefore, what is certain is that Theresa May now faces growing internal disputes over this issue. Such divides will not reassure countries within the EU that Britain is stable or sure of its own future, which could be a real detriment to creating the future trading deals that Britain so desperately needs.