LBC Fact-Check: Why High Court Ruled Against Government Over Brexit

3 November 2016, 16:42

Brexit High Court

Theresa May and the Government today lost a big High Court case over Brexit. This LBC Fact Check with Full Fact explains why.

The High Court ruling, brought by campaigner Gina Miller, means that Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without a vote by MPs.

Critics have dismissed this as undemocratic, while others have said sovereign judges ensuring the government obey the law is the very basis of democracy. But what are the facts?

Why Theresa May Can't Trigger Brexit

Theresa May and her government can't trigger Brexit without an act of parliament, and this is why.

01:06

Full Fact's CJ McKinney explains: "Often court cases can be hyped up in the media and we hear about “landmark decisions” in court all the time. But this is huge – both in legal and political terms.

"What it means is that the Government can’t begin the Article 50 process of leaving the EU without parliament passing a law.

"The law setting up the referendum didn’t say what would happen afterwards – it didn’t make the vote legally binding. That’s why this legal challenge was possible.

"It’s not that the judges are saying that they object to the referendum result – they’re not allowed to do that. They’re not even saying that there’s a legal reason not to leave the EU.

"They are saying that, according to our laws, the government cannot do it by itself. If it wants to do this, Parliament must be fully involved."

"As a result of this case, MPs will get a vote on whether or not we leave the EU. The fact that they have to approve legislation also gives them an opportunity to be a lot more involved in how Brexit plays out."

The government has already said they will appeal - and that could make things even more confusing. CJ adds: "The appeal will go directly to the Supreme Court in early December. All 11 judges of the Supreme Court will hear the case. Having all the judges involved is very unusual and possibly unique.

"If the Supreme Court upholds or reverses the High Court’s judgment, that will be the end of the matter.

"But there’s a chance the judges might think it necessary to get guidance from the EU Court of Justice. That would really upset the applecart because that guidance might take months or even a couple of years to come back.

"But for now, the position is that the government can’t take us out of the EU without Parliament agreeing to change the law."

For full details, visit FullFact.org.

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