UK Supreme Court rules on Article 50

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.

Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Missy has detailed the main points in Theresa May’s speech setting out plans for implementing Brexit (leaving the European Union Single Market):

The Main points are:

  • A final deal on Britain’s exit from the EU will be put to a vote of both Houses of Parliament
  • Ireland will have a common travel area between UK and Irish republic, ‘which will protect the security of UK’
  • May wants to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and Britons living in Europe, as soon as possible.
  • Britain will leave the single market. The Government will seek ‘the greatest possible access with a fully-reciprocal free trade deal’. May indicated that Britain could pay if necessary, but would stop making the contributions it makes now.
  • May wants to see ‘a phased process of implementation of new arrangements outside the EU’ from 2019
  • Theresa May prefers ‘no deal’ than a ‘bad deal’, telling EU leaders punishing Britain would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”

The 12 point plan is below:

  1.  Provide certainty about the process of leaving the EU
  2. Control of our own laws
  3. Strengthen the Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom
  4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland
  5. Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe
  6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU
  7. Protect workers’ rights
  8. Free trade with European markets through a free trade agreement
  9. New trade agreements with other countries
  10. The best place for science and innovation
  11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism
  12. A smooth, orderly Brexit

She has talked tough on this, from my perspective I think the most important things to note is that she is willing to walk away from making any deal if the EU tries to punish Britain for leaving, this will go down well with a lot of leavers (and some Remainers) if she follows through – Cameron had similar rhetoric last January when he tried to negotiate a deal with the EU prior to the referendum saying that if he didn’t get what he wanted then he would campaign to leave.

The EU didn’t give him what he wanted, and he still campaigned to remain, trying to sing the pitiful deal he got as some sort of win.

May also issued a warning to the EU, saying that the EU needs to reform or its ‘vice-like grip’ on its members will shatter into tiny pieces. She said that there are two ways to deal with differences, to try and hold things together by force, or respect the difference and reform so that it deals better with the diversity of its member states. This in my opinion is more than a warning, it is a rebuke to the EU for trying to force greater integration.

No more plans will be made public until Article 50 is triggered, so for those that want more information they will be left disappointed.

Time will tell what the EU reaction will be, there has been some reaction on twitter, and the French Foreign Minister apparently referred to her Brexit plan as improvised – before she even gave her speech.

English meets Merkel

Bill English has met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the last engagement on his European trip.

NZ Herald: PM homeward bound after crucial Merkel meeting

English’s first trip as Prime Minister saw him undertake a precarious balancing act of trying to keeping onside with both the EU and the UK – without taking sides to ensure New Zealand was not trampled underfoot by either in the ensuing melee of Brexit.

English had described Germany as the “de facto leader of Europe” and Merkel’s influence is such that her say so will be critical if the New Zealand free trade agreement is to be signed in anything even close to the 2-3 year timeframe European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has estimated.

As with most trade deals New Zealand is unlikely to be a priority for much bigger partners.

Merkel has a lot to deal with in Germany, including an election this year, and also the very contentious immigration issues Europe and Germany are having to deal with.

The other big issue English was interested in talking to Merkel about was the migration issues in Europe – including coping with refugees which Merkel is now facing criticism over, including from US President-elect Donald Trump.

That could see Merkel seeking more help in dealing with the Syrian refugees from English – although English has previously said New Zealand was doing enough.

Although English diligently avoided criticising either the UK or the EU over Brexit, he did make it clear that the free trade deal with the EU was the priority for New Zealand’s interests – not only because it is likely to happen sooner but also because it is much larger.

English said New Zealand’s decision to follow the EU’s lead on Russia was paying off in terms of the agreement with the EU.

“If we can get a trade deal, get up and going with it and get it done in the kind of time that the Europeans are talking about, I think that would be partly because of the relationship we have built up and some of the common stance we have taken around issues like dealing with Russia.”

This illustrates what a balancing act international relations can be. New Zealand wants trade deals with all of the European Union, the UK and Russia but also needs to walk a fine line supporting or opposing other issues between the three.

I presume this trip had been arranged while John Key was still in charge, but English has dived into the deep end on his first big international trip as Prime Minister.

NZ wants post-Brexit trade deal

On his visit to Europe Prime Minister Bill English has met with his UK counterpart and says that New Zealand will seek a free trade deal with the UK as soon as possible ‘after Brexit’ (presumably after the UK has severed it’s ties with the European Union). And the UK is willing as soon as it is able to.

English is also working towards an EU trade deal.

RNZ: NZ to pursue post-Brexit trade deal

Britain is not able to sign trade deals with third countries while it remains a member of the European Union, but the British government has said it is keen to start preparatory work so agreements can be reached quickly after it leaves.

Mr English met with Mrs May in London overnight.

“We are ready to negotiate a high-quality free trade agreement with the UK when it is in a position to do so,” Mr English said at a news conference.

“We already have a strong and diversified trading relationship with the UK and a free trade agreement will build on that.”

English also met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and has talked about a trade deal there.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said talks with New Zealand could be wrapped up far more quickly than is normal, perhaps in just two to three years.

At a separate briefing with reporters later on Friday, Mr English said he expected the New Zealand-EU deal to be completed before a New Zealand-Britain agreement.

That’s because there’s uncertainty about when the UK will exit the EU and how that will work out in Britain.

“It is difficult to formulate what kind of agreement we would have until it is clear what position the UK is in at the end of Brexit,” he said.

Mrs May said that while Britain remained in the EU, it would work to support an EU-New Zealand trade deal, while also making preparations for a future “bold new” bilateral agreement.

The formal process to leave the EU is scheduled to begin at the end of March but not much detail is known yet.

As Missy posted “Theresa May is expected to give a speech to outline the plan for Brexit in the next week or so”.

British court rules Parliament must vote on Brexit

A High Court has ruled that Parliament must give permission (vote) for Britain to ext the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May had argued she had the authority to proceed without a parliamentary vote.

This has ruffled up the issue.

Guardian: Article 50 ruling leaves Theresa May facing potential MP revolt

Theresa May is heading for a rebellion over her Brexit strategy after the high court ruled that the UK could not leave the European union without the permission of the British parliament.

Three senior judges ruled on Thursday that the government could not press ahead with triggering article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, the formal process for beginning Brexit, without first consulting MPs and peers in the Commons and Lords.

The decision, made after a legal challenge brought following the EU referendum result in June, is a dramatic setback for the prime minister, who had argued that she had the personal authority to begin the process without a parliamentary vote on the issue.

Downing Street has said they will challenge the judgment and an appeal with the supreme court is expected to be lodged. But David Davis, the Brexit secretary, acknowledged that the ruling (pdf) as it stood meant the UK’s departure from the bloc would require the consent of both MPs and peers through an act of parliament.

May is determined to stick to her schedule: Brexit timetable still on track despite article 50 ruling, Theresa May to tell EU

Theresa May is expected to tell the president of the European commission that her timetable for Brexit is still on track despite Thursday’s ruling in the high court, although a leading Conservative peer has called for a delay.

The prime minister is due to telephone Jean-Claude Juncker to say she still plans to trigger article 50 by the end of March, notwithstanding the court ruling that parliament must vote on when the process can begin.

On Friday the Welsh assembly announced that it would seek permission to intervene in any government appeal against the ruling, further complicating the Brexit process.

The Westminster government has said it will challenge the judgment in an appeal expected next month, but some senior Tories have welcomed the ruling as a boost to parliamentary sovereignty.

More: Follow our live updates on the impact of the Brexit ruling


Reasons for voting for Brexit

A UK has found that concern about immigration was of most concern with those who voted for Brexit.

And there appears to be not voters’ remorse, with leaving the EU (44.3%) slightly ahead of remaining (43.6%)

The Independent: British people happy to be poorer if it means fewer foreigners, poll shows


Also polled:

If there was another referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, which of the following is closest to your view?

  • I would vote to to leave 44.3%
  • I would vote to remain 43.6%
  • I would be undecided 6.6%
  • I would not vote 4.7%
  • Prefer not to say 0.6%

Survation survey for ITN

Also from The Independent: European migrants are not just paying their way, they’re paying our way too

A UN report earlier this week found no evidence that migration contributed to terror attacks, and warned that anti-refugee laws could worsen the risk.


Brexit/EU update

From Missy in London:

The posturing by EU Leaders has been ongoing since June, with a lot of threats being provided if the UK tries to leave the EU completely and not sign up to free movement. This week was no different, however, today was the European Council Meeting (leaders), and Theresa May went for the first time, and I think it may be the first glimpse the EU Leaders have of how tough Theresa May can be – in a diplomatic way.

The lead EU negotiator for Brexit reportedly said this morning that the negotiations would be undertaken in French, Theresa May has said the negotiations would be undertaken in a way that would get the right deal for Britain. The negotiator immediately tweeted that he hadn’t said that, and the language hadn’t been decided on. Juncture meanwhile said that there was no reason every country could not do the negotiations in their own language. TM 1 EU 0

Theresa May also gave what is seen as a rebuke to the EU Leaders today, by saying that they want to conduct the negotiations in a mature way. This is widely seen as telling the EU that they are being immature in their responses.

Theresa May also went on to tell the EU that they would begin trade discussions with third countries before Britain leave the EU. Under the EU rules a country cannot sign any trade deals until they are out of the EU, many in the EU (and those that voted Leave in the UK) see that as meaning they can’t begin discussions, however, legally this is not what it means. This will be a blow to the EU bargaining power, especially if they can get some quick deals with the likes of NZ, Aus, Canada, India, China – or at least far along in the deals, as the EU will not have the threat of no deals for several years to try and use to make Britain dance to their tune over the single market.

EU: Today the Free Trade Deal with the EU and Canada fell over as Wallonia (a region in Belgium) vetoed it. For the Belgian Government to vote in favour of anything at the EU they require all regions to agree before they can vote in favour, so one region holding out means Belgium will veto. Some are saying this is bad for Britain, and the EU negotiations, it is in that it represents how difficult it will be, however, if Britain is able to use this to move ahead FTA negotiations with Canada it could be a good thing, as it will show the EU that the UK have options, and they don’t need the EU to do these trade deals.

UK Update – European Union

Missy is back in action with a report from the UK and Europe. Report 1:

European Union

The EU bureaucrats have reportedly been expressing confidence that they will have the upper hand in the Brexit negotiations, however, there are tensions within the EU as the EU Commission bureaucrats try to assert their power and lead the Brexit negotiations despite it having been decided (and agreed) that the Brexit negotiations will be completed by the EU Council which consists of the leaders of the each of the EU member states.

On the Brexit negotiations, the EU have named a former Belgian PM to be the lead negotiator – how this will work hasn’t been discussed, so it is hard to know if he will be taking the cue for negotiations from the Council or Commission.

Whilst some in the EU Commission are rejoicing in delays for Britain in negotiating trade agreements outside the EU (they can’t formally negotiate trade agreements until they have left the EU) the EU itself is running into difficulty with the TTIP trade agreement with the US as talks have stalled again. It is reported that the hold up is with the French who do not like the agreement as it is at the moment, the French Foreign Minister last week was quoted as saying the TTIP is dead in the water. It is not expected that negotiations will resume until June 2017.

The EU Commission are expected to unveil draft legislation for a visa scheme for countries not in the Schengen Zone that have a visa waiver, similar to that of the US ESTA. This is in response to security fears, and is expected that it will be a similar process to those of the US, where travellers from countries with a visa waiver will have to apply online for permission to travel. Despite some media spinning this as a post Brexit scheme to apply to Britain only, if it comes in it would apply to the UK regardless of Brexit as they are not part of the Schengen zone, and it will apply to many other countries in the world, including NZ.

UK update – EU, Corbyn

Another UK update from Missy:


The Irish cabinet today agreed to appeal the decision by the EU Commission over Apple. This was flagged the other day by Ireland, but today after an emergency cabinet meeting it was made official. This has been promoted by some commentators in the UK as showing the tide turning against the EU by the member nations, whether or not this is true time will tell. It will be interesting to watch, but will be a drawn out process.


Ooops he did it again! Corbyn has yet again caused controversy, and is facing criticism regarding intolerance in the Labour Party – this time on two counts:

1. Ruth Smeeth, has received over 20,000 threats since she spoke out against Corbyn over the report into Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. One in particular is causing concern, where she was told the gallows would be a fine and fitting place for her. She is under police protection, and the Counter Terrorism unit are investigating a couple of the people sending the message. The messages have all been sent by people saying they are supporting Corbyn, and they have been sent (in her words) in his name.

Corbyn’s spokesperson said “Jeremy condemns all abuse, and no one responsible for it is a genuine supporter of Jeremy’s. He has repeatedly called for a kinder, gentler politics.”

Unfortunately what this shows is that no matter what Corbyn says his supporters are not listening to him, and his response is to bury his head in the sand and pretend they are not really his supporters. And because he is not strong, or decisive, in taking action against them they believe they have his tacit approval to act in this way – and no matter if they do, his inaction makes the public think they have his approval as well.

His supporters are showing Corbyn up to be a weak and ineffectual leader incapable of making the hard decisions required, and the less he does about this, the less he looks like a PM in waiting to the rest of the country. The problem for Corbyn acting on this is that he needs these people in order to keep his position, and it is now at a stage where if he did act, these ‘supporters’ could easily take things into their own hands and become violent – he really is in a no win situation now.

2. On Wednesday Corbyn gave a speech in which he said that Companies should stop the after work drinks as it was unfair on mothers who wanted to get home to their children, and it benefited men who did not feel the need to be home to look after the children. This was said at a speech to launch Labour’s policy on equal rights for women, which was (ironically) followed by a drinks party (obviously no after work drinks don’t apply to him).

I will assume he meant this comment to be positive for women, and about fairness for women in the workplace, the problem is it seems to have backfired on him as he has been accused of sexism on two counts – one by suggesting women are the only ones responsible for looking after children, and two by suggesting fathers don’t want to be home to help look after their children.

There are some that have also accused him of sexism on the grounds of assuming women don’t want to go out and socialise with colleagues after work, and those that have said he is being discriminatory against those without children – or with older or grown children – by suggesting they should be denied after work drinks because of those with younger children. Not to mention the whole implication that the Government should be able to have any say on how businesses and their workers interact socially, or after hours.

One big mess for Corbyn.

EU Commission rules against Apple tax

Missy reports:

How to win friends and influence people the EU way.

Today the EU commission have ruled on the investigation into tax paid by Apple in Ireland. The ruling has found against Apple and ordered Ireland to bill them 11bn pounds (13bn Euro). I will admit now that I was unaware of this case, and don’t really know the background to it, but my understanding it is part of the EU supposedly cracking down on tax evasion, however, this ruling could cause a number of political problems for the EU, problems that they won’t be wanting right now.

Ireland and Apple are going to appeal the decision, and Ireland have stated they will not be collecting the money – apparently the jobs and investment in Ireland by Apple is worth more to them over the long run, which is fair enough if they see it that way, it is their country after all. The EU commission have made the ruling on anti competition laws, rather than tax law.

  1. The first is that this is seen very much as the EU getting close to infringing on a member country’s sovereignty. From what I understand from some tax experts, the EU could be on shaky ground demanding Ireland collect the tax, as the law they are using to condemn Apple and make the ruling is to do with competition as opposed to actual tax – though I believe it is around the fact that a member state cannot offer favourable conditions (including tax breaks) to one company and not another.
  2. This could damage the relationship between the EU and the US, and with the trade agreement between the two in the midst of negotiations there could be some problems for the EU to get the agreement they want from the US.
  3. The EU could have some credibility issues here. The EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, is a former Finance Minister and PM of Luxembourg, which is widely considered a tax haven – despite coincidentally not being named on the EU’s list of tax haven countries last year. The tax laws, culture, and deals that have made it a very favourable place for large Multinationals to do business, and avoid paying too much tax, were largely developed – or exploited – during Juncker’s time in office. To be going after a Multinational, and another EU member state, for doing what their own President had actively encouraged, shows more than a little hypocrisy.
  4. Apple have threatened the EU that if they enforce this payment then their business in the EU could be downsized quite significantly – if not completely. Now, whilst this is an attempt at either blackmail or bullying (or both) on the part of Apple, it does show that Apple could be in the stronger position here. Apple employ 6000 in Ireland alone, and 10,000’s more throughout the EU, if they were to pull out – or significantly downsize – then this could have a serious impact on an already fragile economy. The UK have, quite rightly in my opinion, jumped on this and told Apple they would be more than welcome to set up shop here.
  5. Apple are not the first Multinational that the EU have gone after, appeals are waiting to be heard on rulings against Starbucks and Fiat for not paying enough tax. There is an opinion that with the latest ruling against Apple some Multinationals may think twice about investing in the EU, and with the UK looking to Brexit, it could make the UK a more attractive option for many. Google and Amazon are rumoured to also be in the firing line – leading the Americans to accuse the US of discriminating against US companies.

Only time will tell how this pans out, but it is looking to be a case of two of the playground bullies squaring up against each other, if it ends up a case of the smarter one winning then I will be putting my money on Apple, the EU Commission are too arrogant with an overinflated sense of the EU’s importance, and delusions of grandeur. But if it is a case of the most stubborn winning, or it being a game of chicken, I think that the EU may edge it.