Prime Minister Theresa May has had her Brexit plans thrown into disarray by judges ruling she does not have the power to bypass Parliament to trigger the process of Britain leaving the European Union.
May and her supporters argues the government could make the decision to push the Article 50 Brexit button to leave the EU.
But she lost the argument by a majority of 8-3 judges at the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court.
In a historic ruling, the court told May that only Parliament could pass a law allowing her to start Brexit negotiations.
Government will comply
The judges also told regional assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that they had no say in the process as only Parliament and the government had the right to negotiate with foreign affairs.
May took the ruling on the chin and resolutely announced a bill giving her permission to start Brexit would go before MPs and the Lords within a few days and that her timetable of starting talks before the end of March was still achievable despite the set back.
“The government will comply with the judgment of the court and do all that is necessary to implement it,” said a government spokesman.
The argument before the Supreme Court was never about the rights or wrongs of Brexit, but about who held sway over important decisions of state – the government or Parliament.
The court came down clearly on the side of Parliament as the lawmakers.
Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: “The government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.
“Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights.
“The UK’s constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.”
The court case was important in deciding the constitutional issues, but Brexit will roll on as no one in Parliament except for a few mavericks has the appetite to oppose May’s Brexit bill.
The political aspect is opposing Brexit is opposing the will of the people displayed in last June’s referendum, and to do that would likely be electoral suicide.