The Treaty of Lisbon is the European Union’s constitution, signed in 2007. Article 50 makes provision for countries that want to leave, something that hasn’t happened before. The UK needs to abide by Article 50 in order to leave the EU.
The UK Supreme Court has just released a judgment that means Theresa May cannot begin talks with the EU until the British Parliament must give their backing. This adds a step, but it is still expected to be done before the 31 March deadline.
Missy has posted several comments on the judgment, it sounds like initial media reaction was confused.:
As expected the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the High Court stating that Article 50 cannot be triggered without an Act of Parliament. The reason appears to be related to Article 2 of the Act that took the UK into the EEC / EU which states that EU law is to become UK law, thus making the EU a source of UK law. The judges have ruled that a source of UK law cannot be overturned without an Act of Parliament.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ruled that the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland do not have to be consulted. This will be a relief to the Government and a blow to Nicola Sturgeon.
Slight correction to what I wrote above with respect to the devolved administrations. The actual ruling states that they have no power to veto the triggering of Article 50, and the UK Government can trigger Article 50 without reaching a deal with them.
There appears to be some confusion some are saying Westminster has no legal obligation to consult with the devolved administrations and they have no veto, others are saying they have no veto or separate vote. I haven’t had a chance to read the judgement yet, so will have a look at that to see exactly what the judges said. It might turn out to be both!
One thing is certain, they cannot veto the triggering of Article 50. This is because Foreign Policy is set by Westminster and the devolved administrations have no authority over international treaties.
I understand that Ministers have draft legislation ready to be tabled this afternoon.
More from the BBC: Brexit: Supreme Court says Parliament must give Article 50 go-ahead
What the Supreme Court case was about
During the Supreme Court hearing, campaigners argued that denying the UK Parliament a vote was undemocratic and a breach of long-standing constitutional principles.
They said that triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – getting formal exit negotiations with the EU under way – would mean overturning existing UK law, so MPs and peers should decide.
But the government argued that, under the Royal Prerogative (powers handed to ministers by the Crown), it could make this move without the need to consult Parliament.
And it said that MPs had voted overwhelmingly to put the issue in the hands of the British people when they backed the calling of last June’s referendum in which UK voters backed Brexit by 51.9% to 48.1%.
What the court said
Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.”
He added: “Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights.
“The UK’s constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.”
The court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered.
Lord Neuberger said: “Relations with the EU are a matter for the UK government.”
Government reaction: This will not delay Brexit
Outlining plans to bring in a “straightforward” parliamentary bill on Article 50, Mr Davis told MPs he was “determined” Brexit would go ahead as voted for in last June’s EU membership referendum.
He added: “It’s not about whether the UK should leave the European Union. That decision has already been made by people in the United Kingdom.”
Outside the Supreme Court, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” but would “comply” and do “all that is necessary” to implement the court’s judgement.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The British people voted to leave the EU, and the government will deliver on their verdict – triggering Article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.”
The ruling doesn’t change the UK government’s aims, but it puts a significant step in the process. And it presumes that their parliament will pass the legislation.