Art 50 ruling shows Parliamentary Sovereignty alive and well

LawI don’t want to get bogged down in a for or against argument about Brexit. It’s a very divisive issue and I’ll leave that to other bloggers. I do want to clarify some points in light of the confused reactions and the lazy journalism following the court ruling yesterday. Apparently none of them bothered to read the judgment before passing their own judgment.

The Daily Express says “Three judges blocked Brexit”. The Sun in its usual puntastic style says “Who do EU think you are?”. My personal favourite though is from the Daily Mail which says: “Fury over ‘out of touch’ judges who defied 17.4m Brexit voters and could trigger constitutional crisis” and called them “Enemies of the People”. At the same time it offers a “free GIANT map of Britain”. They know how to play to their audience!

This kind of jingoistic hyperbole is the new low for some journalists. Let me clarify a few points from the judgment:

1. The government’s inherent powers (through the Crown) to take decisions on behalf of the country are not unfettered. That is, the Government on its own doesn’t have the power to issue notice under Article 50 to leave the EU.


2. The Referendum Act (passed by Parliament) could have given such a power to the government, but it didn’t. In fact the referendum was advisory.


3. The proper forum to take such a decision to issue notice under Article 50 is therefore in Parliament.

4. This doesn’t automatically mean a second referendum or that MPs (except for those in the Scottish National Party) will block it. Many MPs have said they want to hear the government’s case for Brexit and will then vote in accordance with the result of the referendum.

5. The government has already said it will appeal to the Supreme Court which might see the ruling overturned. Or, if the ruling is upheld, it will make the government look even more like it is trying to sideline Parliament.

6. There is no way an appeal will be heard by the Court of Justice of the EU!

7. The independence of the judiciary is long-settled law, as is the sovereignty of Parliament. Judges hold the government to account to make sure it complies with the laws of Parliament.

Conspiracy by the “smirking classes” against the “working classes”? (Credit to Daniel Hannan in the Telegraph for that one) No, I don’t think so. Looks more like the Parliamentary Sovereignty that Brexiters thought we had lost.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


  1. I totally agree with Frank that this was a new low for lazy journalism. Do these journalists know absolutely nothing about the separation of powers in our constitution?

    Liked by 1 person

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