As was widely anticipated, the Supreme Court (by a majority of 8-3) has upheld the decision of the lower court and clarified that Parliament is the correct UK body for issuing notice under Article 50 of the EU treaty to trigger Brexit.
This case has not been about overruling the (non-binding) referendum or about whether the UK should leave the EU. It has not been a power grab by the judges, despite what the Daily Mail says. It has been a case about who has the power under the UK constitution to start the process of leaving the EU: the government or Parliament. The Referendum Act didn’t provide for the Prime Minister to use prerogative power to issue notice under Article 50. So, it falls to the general principles of the UK constitution. Parliament voted to take us into the EU and to allow EU laws and rights to have effect in the UK; Parliament must vote to take us out of the EU and to prevent EU laws and rights applying in the UK. Interestingly, the court also said there is no legal obligation to consult the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What some Brexiteers seem to have been arguing is that the people voted in a referendum and that’s where it ends. But they forget, it’s the people of the whole of the UK who elect members of the UK Parliament to conduct law-making on their behalf to run the UK. We the people elect those lawmakers every five years. Do we really want all decisions to be made by referendum? If that were the case, maybe we could abolish Parliament and have referendums on every issue. I can’t imagine we’d get many laws passed if everyone had to vote on every law.