UPDATING: Reaction to High Court ruling on Article 50

Posted On: 
3rd November 2016

The High Court today ruled that the Government needs to consult Parliament before triggering Article 50. Follow all the reaction here. 

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A Government spokesperson: 

"The Government is disappointed by the Court’s judgment.

"The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. And the Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. 

"We will appeal this judgment."

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox: 

“The government is disappointed by the court’s judgement. The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament.

"The government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. This judgement raises complex and important matters of law and it’s right we consider it carefully before deciding how to proceed.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn:

"This ruling underlines the need for the Government to bring its negotiating terms to parliament without delay. Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.

“Labour will be pressing the case for a Brexit that works for Britain, putting jobs, living standards and the economy first."

Leader of the House of Commons, David Lidington:

“This was lengthy and complex judgment which the attorney general is currently studying, but I can confirm to the house Mr Speaker that it is the government’s intention to appeal against today’s judgment of the High Court. We are, as the House is aware, now in a situation in which we have this judgment today and a very little while ago a judgment from the High Court in Northern Ireland which came to a completely different decision on the same subject.

"So we now have the High Courts in two different parts of the United Kingdom coming to opposite conclusions on the same constitutional question; so this will need to go to a higher court.

"It is the government’s intention, in the light of those two judgments to offer an oral statement next Monday, so that subject to the usual requirements on sub judice, ministers can be questioned by members of the House."

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, a leading Leave campaigner, said

"My sense is the Supreme Court, I hope and believe, on this appeal will overturn it because it's not the position of the courts to tell parliament or the Government how that process should work. It never has been. Their job is to interpret what comes out of parliament, not to tell parliament how it goes about its functions. What's missing in this is the reality that the judiciary is quite split on this. You have the Northern Ireland judgement, from the judiciary over there, which actually found exactly the opposite for this. So you've not got two courts which disagreed with each other, so the Supreme Court clearly now has to make a decision. The truth is parliament passed an Act which gave the British people the right to make the decision about whether we stayed or left. That's not advisory, it's absolutely clear that that decision was a binding decision."

Pat McFadden, Labour MP and part of the Open Britain campaign: 

“A role for Parliament in the triggering of Article 50 is welcome. But Parliament should have a clear role in the substance of the Brexit negotiations, not just the process.

“Open Britain is calling on the Government to bring forward their substantive plans for the negotiations - in the equivalent of a White Paper - to be debated and voted on in Parliament before Article 50 is triggered.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron: 

“It is disappointing that this government was so intent on undermining Parliamentary sovereignty and democratic process that they forced this decision to be made in the court, but I welcome the news today that MPs will get to vote on the triggering of Article 50."

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan to BBC News: 

"Theresa May has talked about giving the notice by the end of March so we do have some time in hand but I remember when I was in Cabinet there was a bill that went through the Commons and the Lords in one day – now obviously there’s a huge amount of debate, it’s a very contentious issue that people have views on…but I think what this judgment is saying is Parliament has to have a vote and because the 2015 Referendum Act didn’t set out what happens in the event of a Leave vote that’s why I think this vote is so necessary."

Labour MP, Mike Gapes:

“The High Court has ruled that the government does not have the power 'to trigger Article 50'. Can we therefore have a debate to celebrate the assertion of taking back control and parliamentary democracy, and that parliament should determine when article 50 is triggered, on the basis of the full implications of the advisory referendum?"

Brexit campaigner and Tory MP Dominic Raab: 

"On 23 June the British people gave a clear mandate for the UK Government to leave the EU and take back control of our borders, laws, money and trade. It is disappointing that today the court has chosen to ignore their decision.

"This case is a plain attempt to block Brexit by people who are out of touch with the country and refuse to accept the result. However, the vote to leave the EU was clear and they should not seek to obstruct it."

Lawyer acting for Deir Santos, one of those who brought the case: 

"This is a victory not just for the brave individuals that brought this claim but, more importantly, for Parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. This is a victory for democracy over the feudal institution of Royal Prerogative.  The Government has to accept the constitutional reality that Parliament must have early involvement in the process."

Professor Richard Ekins, Head of the Judicial Power Project at Policy Exchange, said:

"The High Court has made a bad mistake.  It has wrongly lent its authority to a claim that undermines both democratic self-government and the rule of law. The basic point of this litigation has not been to defend parliamentary democracy.  Rather, the aim has been to introduce a new stumbling block to Brexit by providing sympathetic MPs and peers with an opportunity to frustrate the referendum result. The Government is right to appeal and the Supreme Court should promptly overturn the High Court's dubious decision.”

Ukip leadership hopeful Suzanne Evans is not happy.



Tory MP and leading pro-EU campaigner Anna Soubry confronted International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on the court ruling in the Commons.

"Could I ask him to look at the learned judge’s ruling and understand that it is not about a re-run of the arguments about the EU referendum, but all about parliamentary sovereignty and in that event will the government look at it carefully to decide whether or not the learned judges are right and it is this place that should and indeed will trigger Article 50?"

Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who also campaigned for Remain, said

"Democracy has been asserted. Many people voted t leave the EU in June because they wanted to take control back, they wanted sovereignty t come back from the EU back to the United Kingdom. What the High Court has conformed today is that that sovereignty, in terms of making the decision about leaving the EU, ultimately rests with parliament to give its say through the triggering of Article 50. But I'm also very confident that my colleagues in parliament ... are very aware of how people voted - 17 million to leave the EU in June and I expect parliament will approve the triggering of Article 50 notice."

Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy, said:

"The Government’s position that it could run roughshod over parliamentary sovereignty by invoking the dictatorial powers of Henry VIII always was untenable in the 21st century.  The correct course of action now would be for Theresa May to accept this judgement and move on to holding a full and open debate in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity.

"We acknowledge that there is a disparity between the views of MPs and the public, but without a proportional voting system, the only course of action is to trust MPs to take the views of their constituents into consideration when deciding how to vote. No doubt MPs are ultimately accountable to their constituents, who will be given the final say.

"What is clearly unacceptable is for the Brexit process to continue as it has been over the past few months with virtually no parliamentary or public scrutiny. The government needs to open up, both in terms of their own preparations and which special interests have been lobbying them on this issue behind closed doors."

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England: 

"It is an example of the uncertainty that will characterise this process... That uncertainty does bear down on business investment, that effect builds with time, lower business investment has consequences for employment ultimately, it has consequences for productivity."

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary:

“The people have spoken on this. We’ve got the biggest mandate in history, the result of the referendum must be respected. Parliament voted by six to one to give the decision to the people – no ifs or buts – and that’s why we are appealing this, to get on with delivering the best deal for Britain, that’s the best deal for growth, the best deal for investment, the best deal for jobs. The people want us to get on with it and that’s what we intend to do...

“The first thing to say is that this was a decision for the British people. That decision was taken after a six-to-one vote in the Commons to give the decision to the British people, so that’s why we’re appealing it. We’re appealing it intending to win that appeal so that we can deliver the best deal for Britain... That’s what the Government is about, delivering the mandate the people laid down in the best way, in the best national interest...

“Parliament is sovereign, has been sovereign, but of course the people are sovereign. The people are the ones who Parliament represent – 17.4 million of them, the biggest mandate in history, voted for us to leave the European Union. We’re going to deliver on that mandate in the best way possible.”

On whether it had to be primary legislation:

“The judges have laid out what we can’t do, and not exactly what we can do but we’re presuming that it requires an Act of Parliament and therefore both Commons and Lords.”

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve to Sky News:

“I certainly see the judgement, as it’s been given by the High Court, as indicating that there has to be primary legislation – a statute passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords and signed by the Queen. The reason for that is because the issue in front of the High Court was whether you could undo statute law by a proclamation, by the use of the royal prerogative saying ‘we are leaving the EU’, thereby depriving large numbers of people in this country of statutory rights enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom which they currently enjoy. And what the judges said is ‘you can’t do that’... So what’s needed is for the Government, I think, to introduce a piece of primary legislation.”

Does that mean a delay to the Government’s timetable?

“I’m not necessarily sure about that. I certainly think that any piece of legislation could well be rather short in its terms but it’s true that it is debatable and amendable and will allow an opportunity for debating all the issues surrounding Brexit and where we go once Article 50 has been triggered.

“But at the end of the day, you can get primary legislation through Parliament quite quickly. It’s been known to be done in 48 hours but that’s as an emergency. I don’t think we’re talking about that.  It might delay slightly the triggering of Article 50, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Government isn’t ready to trigger Article 50 itself at the moment at all because it doesn’t really know at the moment what it’s going to do next.”

Bar Council Chairman, Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC:

Today's High Court judgment on Article 50 is of major significance for the future of this country. Irrespective of what happens next, the Bar Council's Brexit Working Group, which we set up within days of the Referendum result, will continue to assess the implications of any future relationship with the European Union, both in relation to the public interest, as well as, the interests of the legal profession. We will continue to make our views known to Governemtn and Parliament." 

Summary of the judgment HERE. Full judgment HERE