High Court ruling requires Act of Parliament for Article 50 - David Davis

Posted On: 
3rd November 2016

The Government will have to take primary legislation through the House of Commons and House of Lords if today’s High Court ruling on Article 50 stands, Brexit Secretary David Davis has said. 

David Davis says the Government is 'presuming' the court's judgment entails full primary legislation
PA Images

Judges said this morning that the Government could not use royal prerogative to trigger the two-year departure timeframe for leaving the European Union, and that Parliament would have to be consulted.

The Government has announced it is going to appeal the judgment in the Supreme Court, and insisted that it still expects to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

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Mr Davis said that, if the ruling is not overturned, a full Act of Parliament would be needed – opening up the possibility of MPs and peers attaching amendments and conditions to the legislation.

He told reporters: “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, who supported remaining in the EU, said primary legislation “might delay slightly” the Government’s timetable.

Mr Davis argued Brexit had the “biggest mandate in history”, and that Parliament had already had its say.

“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...

“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.”

No 10 earlier said it had no intention of changing Theresa May’s statement that Article 50 would be triggered by the end of March next year.

"Our plan remains to invoke Article 50 by the end of March. We believe the legal timetable should allow that,” the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said.

Mr Grieve, formerly the Government’s top lawyer, agreed that primary legislation was required.

“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,” the Conservative MP told Sky.  

“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.”

He said the legislation would not “necessarily” entail a delay to the Government’s timetable.

“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.”