Parliament must vote on Brexit: So Saith the Supreme Court of the UK

Decision just came out a few hours ago, apparently.

The Court, by an 8-3 majority, has held that leaving the EU will affect the statutory rights of British citizens. Because it will change the law, it can’t be done just by royal prerogative governing the withdrawal from a treaty. Parliament has to approve it.

So, a vote in the Commons and the Lords is coming up. And the pound has fallen further.

Thoughts? discussion? (I don’t know enough about the economics, but I assume this is GD fodder.)

Supreme Court rules MPs must vote on triggering Brexit

Pound drops as Supreme Court ruling seen as no brake on Brexit

What are the estimates of how such a vote will go?

I don’t know, but I’m curious to hear from the British Dopers.

It’s an interesting quandary for the politicians, because they know it will be painful, but they are also conscious that it’s what the voters asked for - but only marginally; whichever way it goes, they potentially upset about half of the people who turned out at the referendum.

Then why not do the right thing and vote against exiting?

Seems it would almost certainly favor Remain.

But wouldn’t a Remain referendum vote outcome (last year) ***not ***be subject to Supreme Court / Parliament review? Seems like a double standard.

Why? Remain would require no changes to the existing legal framework. Leave most definitely does imply a change.

Parliament already voted in favor of the policy position covered by the remain vote. They did it when they joined. It’s only a double standard if you ignore the initial legislating that the remain position supported.

The overwhelming likelihood is that Parliament will vote through any Bill authorising the government to make a formal Article 50 notification of intent to leave the EU.

It needn’t be this way. The Tories, who hold a majority of 12, were until recently badly split on this issue but since the Referendum have more or less united behind PM May’s “Brexit means Brexit” line. There are however a few potential rebels (e.g. Anna Soubry MP) who might be enough to make the prospect of government defeat viable. Of the opposition parties, the SNP and Lib Dems will vote against. However, Labour, the official Opposition and largest opposing party, have announced today that they will not seek to frustrate the passage of an A50 Bill. With that, any prospect of the Bill being voted down has pretty much evaporated.

What remains is the question of how substantive the Bill will be. It could be little more than one line long: “This House authorises the Prime Minister to make a formal Article 50 notification to the European Union”. Indeed, a “straightforward” Bill is what is being suggested by the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. This is more contentious: Labour are saying that they expect a full White Paper (the case for a Bill) to be published and for the Bill to be substantive, with provisions for Parliamentary oversight and government accountability. There is also a case for a debate on the significant questions which have been left open by the Referendum result - such as the extent of restrictions of freedom of movement, membership or “access” to the single market, the acceptability of WTO regulations as the best alternative to any negotiated deal with the EU etc. etc. The government appears reluctant to engage in debate on these matters but there is some cross-party demand for them. However, unless Labour is willing to use the threat of voting against the Bill - which it isn’t - these demands lack teeth.

(Cite for the factual element of the above here)

The problem is that the result of “leave” means different things do different people in the leave camp. There is not a majority either way for any outcome, from a Norway style partnership, to a full divorce.

In theory today’s decision can be complied with through a simple Enabling Act, stating that the Queen-in-Council does have the power to activate Article 50. In actual political reality, no one is going to agree to such an Act, unless they know what they are enabling the government to negotiate. Mrs May has done herself zero favours with her opaqueness, though YMMV, and U.K Dopers can better comment.

All in all, the grown ups are finally here.

Because of the distribution of the two halves of electorate. Remain voters are heavily clustered - Scotland (whose MPs will overwhelmingly be voting against the Bill in any case) London, parts of the South East, and a few city centres. The majority of MPs have constituencies who voted Leave, meaning that the political calculus is very much in favour of voting the Bill through.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in the workings of the British constitution, the full judgement (pdf) provides an excellent summary of its “unwritten” nature, history and application from para 40 onwards. One notable outcome of this case concerns the role of conventions in the constitution.
Conventions are simply that - a widely/universally recognised agreement that certain things will be done in a certain way. They have sufficient political force that they are regarded as constitutional. For example, when power was devolved to Scotland in 1999, Westminster not only reserved certain areas (e.g. defence) where only it would legislate, it also reserved the right to enact legislation concerning devolved powers should it so choose. The Sewel Convention which sprang up as a result states that Westminster will choose not to pass such legislation unless and until the devolved Scottish Parliament passes “enabling legislation” which essentially says, “OK, go ahead, it’s cool with us”.

This matters because in this case the devolved Scottish government argued before the Supreme Court that the decision to leave the EU would fall under the Sewel Convention and thus require enabling legislation. If accepted, this would give pro-Remain Scotland an effective veto over Brexit. The Lords, in their ruling, did **not **come to a conclusion about whether the government must or must not await enabling legislation from Scotland. Instead they ruled that they had no place ruling over an extra-legal convention.

This is kind of a big deal, because if the Sewel Convention is publicly shown to be unenforceable then the foundations of the devolution settlement start to look pretty shaky. So the prospect of not only Brexit but also Scottish Independence becomes more likely (although not imminent, I would think).

I agree with your posts so far on this thread. I get the impression Labour(other than a few notable exceptions) are going to keep their heads down over this, and to be fair that is probably the wisest course of action the Party can take. Labour, as a Party voting against this Bill, would see about a third of its already cut to the bare bones number of seats under real threat at the next GE.

Yes - but a Labour Party voting for this bill would see a smaller - but still significant - share of its seats under threat in Remain areas - the Lib Dems are picking up young urban voters again.

Labour is essentially shafted. Most but not all of its supporters voted Remain, but constituency distribution and the threat from UKIP and Tories mean that it has to pay due attention to the Leave vote. At the same time, if it tacks too far towards Leave it pisses off its core voters - and you can’t out-Tory the Tories. There is no triangulation of this issue, or if there is they haven’t found it yet, so they’re screwed.

But so many people seem to have change there minds once they realized what they had done.

The Court’s not making a political decision whether, as a matter of public policy, Parliament should debate the pros and cons of Brexit.

Rather, the Court was asked, as a legal question, if the Cabinet had the legal authority to take Britain out of the EU?

The Court held that the Cabinet did not have that legal authority, because leaving the EU would change the statutory rights of British citizens. The Court concluded that only Parliament could authorise that change.

Staying in the EU would not change any legal rights of British citizens, so as a matter of law did not have to go to Parliament.

Stanislaus, thanks for the link to the decision. I won’t have a chance to read it today, so l have a quick question, if I may: did the Court refer to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Patriation Reference? The SCC reached the opposite conclusion on the convention issue, and held that it could declare the scope of a constitutional convention.

However, that was under the Court’s reference jurisdiction, not a civil action, so it may have a broader jurisdiction than the SCUK.

Sorry, but no they did not change their minds. Not even close. Polls(as far as we trust them these days) show roughly the same breakdown in terms of pro and anti Brexit sentiment today as it was the day of the referendum. You can be sure that if Parliament votes against Brexit then pro Brexit, anti Parliament sentiment will increase massively among the British electorate.

I was thinking more of Labour abstaining, or, some “dignified vote of conscience” as Labour remove the Whip for this vote.

A sensible choice to my mind. A momentous decision like this should be given parliamentary scrutiny.
Personally I think had we had more and stronger parliamentary scrutiny and pushback on Maastricht and Lisbon then we would have lanced the euro boil and we wouldn’t have got a this nuclear option but…hey ho, here we are.

The only problem I see is that the opposition, though they can’t really justify stopping article 50, may pressure too much disclosure on the key debating points and spike the guns of the brexit negotiators. Ultimately, if it is going to happen then we need to keep as much detail secret whilst still satisfying parliament. I’m not sure how that is going to pan out.