Virginia, US
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| Caron Pope

UK Government Loses First Stage of Article 50 Battle

The Government will need MPs approval before it can trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Following the UK's decision to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to trigger Article 50 in early 2017, starting a two-year countdown to exit from the EU.

The process for withdrawal from the EU is governed by Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, which states that once a member gives notice of its decision to withdraw, it has a two-year period within which to negotiate a withdrawal agreement. Once that period elapses, all associated treaties and agreements come to end, subject to an extension which can only be granted by the unanimous decision of the European Council.

The case challenged the Secretary of State’s power to trigger Article 50 unilaterally and argued that there was an obligation to first put the matter to Parliament to vote. The Government accepted in this case that once triggered, Article 50 cannot be withdrawn, nor can it be qualified such that Parliament would be able to ‘take back’ Article 50 if not content with the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Government. The Court found that as the effect of withdrawal from the EU would inevitably mean the change of domestic laws, it was contrary to fundamental principles of Parliamentary sovereignty for this to happen without the vote of Parliament.

The Government will appeal against the decision.

Although appeals from the High Court would normally go to the Court of Appeal first, it is understood this case will exceptionally ‘leapfrog’ the Court of Appeal and go directly from the High Court to the Supreme Court.