Article 50 case outcome could delay Brexit, Supreme Court judge cautions

Hayley Kirton
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It's not clear what sort of legislation government will need to trigger Article 50 should it lose the case, the senior judge said (Source: Getty)

Brexit could be delayed if government loses its appeal on the Article 50 case, the deputy president of the Supreme Court has cautioned.

In a speech in Kuala Lumpur, which was delivered last week but the text not published until today, Lady Brenda Hale mused that, if the appeal did not swing in government's favour, it was not clear whether a simple piece of legislation would be sufficient or whether government would need to get parliament's approval on a "comprehensive replacement for the 1972 [European Communities] Act".

Earlier this month, three judges at the high court decided government must consult parliament before it can trigger Article 50. Hale will be among the judges hearing the case when it reaches the Supreme Court on 5 December.

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Government has already said it plans to pass a Great Repeal Bill, which will effectively pull together all the laws applicable to the UK as a current EU member state, nullify the effect of the 1972 Act and allow government to then pick and choose which rules it would like to keep in the future.

Although this legislation could well be the "comprehensive replacement" Hale referred to, the Bill is not expected to be formally announced until the Queen's speech in May, long after the March deadline Prime Minister Theresa May has previously given for triggering Article 50.

Hale also reminded the audience listening to her speech that the referendum result is "not legally binding".

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Hale's comments have sparked some criticism this evening. Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News: "I do not believe for one moment that [the Supreme Court] will form a majority opinion, it is a tiny minority.

"The individual concerned herself has always been opposed to Britain leaving the EU."

Jumping to Hale's defence, a Supreme Court spokesperson said:

Lady Hale was simply presenting the arguments from both sides of the Article 50 appeal in an impartial way for an audience of law students, as part of a wider lecture on constitutional law. It is entirely proper for serving judges to set out the arguments in high profile cases to help public understanding of the legal issues, as long as it is done in an even-handed way.

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