Yesterday's Article 50 motion legally important but not that important, top court reminds

Hayley Kirton
Follow Hayley
MPs voted yesterday to stick to the proposed Brexit timetable, provided government showed its handed a bit more (Source: Getty)

Yesterday's parliamentary vote to stick to the March 2017 deadline for triggering Article 50 carries little legal clout, lawyers in the country's top court stated today.

On the final day of the Article 50 appeal to the Supreme Court, James Eadie, one of government's lawyers, presented the 11 Supreme Court justices with a copy of the motion and called it "significant", but conceded it was not legally "binding".

However, the judges seemed uninspired by the line of thinking, with Lord Sumption quipping if government genuinely believed the motion was enough to settle the case, then they wouldn't have bothered continuing with the appeal today.

Read more: If May publishes her Brexit plan, will it affect the UK's deal with the EU?

Today marked the last day of a four-day appeal of a decision last month from the High Court, where three judges found in favour of a group of claimants arguing the UK's unwritten constitution did not allow government to trigger Article 50 without an act of parliament in place.

"Parliament debating and voting on a motion or resolution simply won't suffice," said Gina Miller, the lead claimant in the initial case, in a statement issued after the hearing. "I hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the High Court ruling that Article 50 cannot be triggered using the royal prerogative.

"Our case is that prerogative powers end where domestic law begins. Only parliament can grant rights and only parliament can frustrate, nullify or displace rights."

Read more: Scots are not claiming a Brexit veto, court hears

However, in his own post-hearing statement, attorney general Jeremy Wright, said:

Parliament will be closely involved in the process of the UK's withdrawal from the EU over the coming months and years. Only yesterday MPs debated a Brexit motion in the House and the Prime Minister has committed to publishing the government's plans for leaving the EU.

We have argued that the government can use the powers it has to enact what the public has decided. The judges will now decide if they agree.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its judgment next year, with Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, saying: "We appreciate that this case should be resolved as quickly as possible, and we will do our best to achieve that."

Related articles