The Supreme Court has ruled by majority that Parliament must vote on whether the government can start the Brexit process, rather than the government using prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
This means that legislation must be passed prior to triggering Article 50. At present, Labour has signalled that it will support the move, although there may be splits within the party, whereas the SNP and Lib Dems have signalled that they will oppose. As such, it is likely that any legislation will pass, but there is scope for amendment that may present the government with difficulties. The Supreme Court also unanimously ruled that the UK government is not legally required to consult with the devolved administrations before triggering Art. 50 because engagement with the EU is reserved to Westminster.
The judgment can be found here...
In response to the judgment, Mike Russell MSP said:
“A hard Brexit would be disastrous for Scotland – and it is clear that an overwhelming majority across Scotland and in the Scottish Parliament are opposed to the UK Government’s plans. The Prime Minister has made numerous statements and commitments there would be a UK approach to Brexit. We published our proposals to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe at the end of last year and we have yet to have any detailed response, or any indication of whether or how the UK Government intends to take them forward as part of its forthcoming negotiations. Time is running out for the UK Government to show how it intends to respect Scotland’s interests. If it does not, the Scottish people will face a choice as to whether we continue down the damaging path of a hard Brexit, or choose a better way for Scotland.”
The Scottish Government press release can be found here...
Mr Russell subsequently made a statement in the Scottish Parliament in which he said:
“In July last year, the Prime Minister assured the First Minister that article 50 will not be triggered “until … we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations”. That was in line with Theresa May’s clear and unambiguous view of how the United Kingdom should operate. The UK, she said, should be a country
“in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners.”
“Last week, the Prime Minister unilaterally announced, without any notification or negotiation, that she intends to take the UK out of not just the EU but the single market and, indeed, the customs union. That announcement pre-empted a meeting of the joint ministerial committee at which the possibility of the whole of the UK remaining in the single market was due to be discussed as one of the options in the Scottish Government’s Europe paper.
Indeed, the Prime Minister also made her announcement before one of the UK’s negotiating partners—the Welsh Government—had even published its proposals for the way forward. How can a unified UK approach be agreed when the Prime Minister does not even bother to wait to hear the position of one of the constituent parts of the UK before pronouncing? Now the very foundations of the devolution settlement that are supposed to protect our interests, such as the statutory embedding of the Sewel convention, are being shown to be worthless.
The Scottish Government has done all that it can to seek compromise and reach accommodation with the UK Government on the terms of the UK leaving the EU. We have recognised that there is a mandate for England and Wales to leave the EU, but there is no such mandate in Scotland.
We were the first Administration anywhere in the UK to produce detailed and pragmatic proposals on how to respond to the challenge of Brexit. It is for the UK Government to show similar pragmatism. It is time for it to compromise, and it is time for it to listen and to respect the views of others.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the UK Government’s approach to Brexit is not just about the question of EU membership but about the kind of country that we want to live in. Do we want to have our future direction determined by an increasingly right-wing, reckless, hard-Brexit Tory party that is determined to turn its back on Europe despite the threats to jobs, prosperity, rights and freedoms, or is it better to take the future into our own hands? Is it better that we determine the kind of Scotland, the kind of Europe and the kind of world that we want to live in?”
The full Official Report can be found here...