UK High Court ruling on triggering Article 50 – What does it mean?

On the 23rd June a referendum was held on the UK’s membership of the European Union, with a majority of people voting to leave. The UK Government interpreted this result as an instruction to begin the process of leaving the EU by triggering the mechanism in place to begin exit negotiations, the so called Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty.

Many people felt that the decision to trigger Article 50 was not the responsibility of the Government but should be considered following a vote in Parliament by MPs. Following a ruling by the High Court on November 3rd the government now has a responsibility to consult Parliament on the triggering of Article 50, and will need to secure a majority vote within Parliament in order to trigger exit negotiations.

‘The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government [That it holds the power to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary Approval]. There is nothing in the text of the 1972 Act [Which took the UK into the EU] to support it’ – Extract from High Court Ruling

With the Government holding a small majority within parliament it may now find that it needs to answer many more questions from MPs prior to gaining their vote. This could both delay the negotiations, and in the case of MPs not being satisfied with the Government’s position for negotiations, obstruct the triggering of Article 50 through voting against starting negotiations.


Article 50 – Under the EU Lisbon Treaty, member states have the option of withdrawing from the European Union of 28 member states. This provision is explained under ‘Article 50’ which states that a country must give its explicit desire to leave the European Union to the European Council which will then trigger a 2 year process of leaving.

High Court – One of the highest courts in the UK judicial system. If a high court ruling is appealed through the Court of Appeal and accepted then the case will be passed on to the Supreme Court, the highest court within the United Kingdom who can pass final judgement.

Difference between Government and Parliament – Parliament is made up of the House of Commons and House of Lords, its role is to legislate (make laws) and check the work of government. The government runs the country. It has responsibility for developing and implementing policy and for drafting laws. Government is lead by the Prime Minister and is usually made up by the party with the most ‘seats’ in the House of Commons.

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Harvey Chandler

International Politics student at Brunel University. Harvey holds the Chair of Brunel Politics Society and is Political Editor of student newspaper Le Nurb.

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