Article 50. What’s all the fuss about?
13 December 2016 by Tony Fisher
Few things have caused as much angst so far concerning the UK’s exit from the EU than the role of the executive (government) in deciding if and when to start the exit process by exercising our rights to leave under Article 50. The role of the judiciary in this process has also been under the spotlight, and the decision made by three High Court Judges that Parliament had a role to play in the process led to some of the most extreme headlines so far since the Referendum vote decided we should leave the EU back in June. They were “enemies of the people” according to the Daily Mail, a headline which drew huge and justified criticism from government ministers and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum. The division of power between the judiciary, parliament and the government has been a central feature of our constitutional arrangements for hundreds of years and the robustness of the checks and balances which these arrangements bring to the UK is envied the world over. Last week the Supreme Court heard submissions from every side of the argument over four days of intensive argument. Speeches were heard from government lawyers, lawyers acting for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and the parties who originally argued that exercise of Article 50 required a parliamentary vote. We will hear the decision of the Supreme Court judges in January but we can all be proud of the quality and transparency of the process that is being followed in order to reach that decision.
There has been a lot of confusion with regard to what the Supreme Court has been asked to decide. The Law Society has produced a very short and very informative video which breaks out the key issues in 50 seconds. It is worth a look. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, it is but one of many steps along the way towards Brexit, a process which will inevitably throw up legal issues at every step of the way over the next few years. We will issue a series of blogs to inform you and guide you on this journey which is probably the most complex negotiations undertaken by any peacetime government since the end of the Second World War….