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The legal questions of the High Court Article 50 ruling

14th November 2016

Theresa May

Everyone has been talking about Article 50, especially after the shock High Court decision that has forced Prime Minister Theresa May to let MPs vote on triggering the Brexit process.

Here we take a look at the legal questions that are at the centre of the High Court Article 50 ruling and how those in legal jobs in London and across the rest of the UK may be affected by Article 50.

What is Article 50?

Firstly we need to fully understand what Article 50 is.

Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon has been designed to make the EU "more democratic, more transparent and more efficient" and is an agreement signed by the heads of state and governments of countries that are EU members.

In a nutshell, Article 50 notifies all member states that your country is withdrawing.

The legal questions at the heart of Article 50

In an article on the BBC, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, said, "The sole question in this case is whether, as a matter of the constitutional law of the United Kingdom, the Crown - acting through the executive government of the day - is entitled to use its prerogative powers to give notice under Article 50 for the United Kingdom to cease to be a member of the European Union."

The Lord Chief Justice went onto to stress that the most fundamental “rule of UK constitutional law is that the Crown in Parliament is sovereign and that legislation enacted by the Crown with the consent of both Houses of Parliament is supreme”.

The crown’s prerogative powers are a collection of powers from the crown that have existed since medieval times.

The parliament is the king of the constitution, but the government cannot use executive powers to override legislation and this was the main argument of Gina Miller, who was the lead claimant in the case.

The government fully accepted that activating Article 50 by using prerogative powers would effectively change domestic law and this is why the government lost the High Court Article 50 ruling.

Gina Miller’s lawyers argued that after Article 50 is triggered some rights, such as the right to vote in EU elections and to petition the European Court of Justice, would be gone forever.

What now?

A piece on the Independent website has revealed that Theresa May could overturn the Brexit ruling by claiming the triggering of Article 50 does not have a direct impact on British citizens rights.

This argument focuses on the UK’s dualist legal system and the idea that international law is not applicable in the UK until it is translated into national legislation.

The government has already begun proceedings to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.

Should Article 50 get the green light following the appeal, then it is set to impact on dozens of sectors of the UK economy.

The major change will see a number of trade deals having to be renegotiated, which could impact jobs and businesses in London and the UK.

Lawyers will undoubtedly be called upon by multinational businesses and will be tasked with divvying up properties, institutions and pension rights as well as having to deal with the rights of UK citizens in the EU and vice versa.

Image Credit: ukhomeoffice