As the Supreme Court’s Article 50 hearing enters its second day, does it matter if the government loses?
Olly Kendall, managing director and founder of Westminster Public Affairs, says Yes.
The Supreme Court’s decision will turn Parliament into a powerful backseat driver, forcing Theresa May to reset the destination on the Brexit GPS.
The government is likely to lose its legal battle and when it does – particularly in the absence of a second public referendum on the result of negotiations – it will give Parliament the green light to probe and scrutinise the terms of the Brexit bill.
David Davis will hear from MPs on all sides of the House that our exit must be moderate. It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy: forcing UK diplomats to soften their stance while emboldening EU negotiators (“even your own Parliament doesn’t want to lose free movement of labour” they’ll tell us).
What's more, in the Lords, recent history teaches us that peers are only too willing to amend and throw back legislation to the Commons which they don't like – hundreds will vote down the bill to trigger Article 50, further weakening the government’s position around the negotiating table.
Tim Worstall, senior fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, and author of Chasing Rainbows: Economic Myths, Environmental Facts, says No.
The Supreme Court ruling on Article 50 doesn’t matter very much, no, on two grounds.
First, a vote in Parliament on its triggering can be done with a whipped bill, that bill possibly amounting to 50 or 60 words. It will quite obviously pass as such.
The second ground is the more interesting one. The European Union loves to insist that it is a law-based organisation but this is not in fact true. It is one based upon what is convenient for the project. When referendums in Ireland and France went the “wrong way”, fudges were made and that ship of state sailed on.
The British desire is obviously to leave and not a few over the Channel will be glad to see the back of the awkward squad. Thus leaving is going to happen whatever the Supreme Court decides – and thus their decision is of little importance. It might be a procedural detail but it’s not going to affect the end state.