On 3 November 2016, the High Court of England and Wales decided that the UK Government and the Prime Minister does not have the power to use the prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the UK’s exit from the European Union without the consent of Parliament.
What are the prerogative powers?
The UK’s institutions are defined and function on the principle of the “separation of powers”: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
- The executive is made up of the Crown and the Government (which includes the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers). Their job is to propose laws and make policies;
- The legislature is made up of Parliament and all Members who are not a part of the UK Government. Their job is to make sure that the UK Government’s decisions are in the best interest of the UK and its people; and
- The judiciary is made up of all the judges in the courts of law, including tribunals and magistrates courts. Senior judges are appointed by the Crown (or the Queen).
This principle of the “separation of powers” means that our Government, Parliament and Judges should be functionally independent.
The principle suggests that it’s important for all the powers to be separate to protect against one of these institutions having more control than the others – it’s about keeping them all in check and balanced.
Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the UK Government decided that it would trigger the process by using its own prerogative power, which means they wouldn’t need to consult Parliament in the decision-making process. Some argued that the referendum result was enough.
Why was the High Court involved?
Some people felt that by not consulting Parliament and allowing Members of Parliament a opportunity to vote, the UK Government was acting outside of its powers and not allowing Parliament to scrutinise its approach to leaving the EU.
The High Court was asked whether, as a matter of UK constitutional law, the Government is permitted to trigger Article 50 in this way without reference to Parliament.
The High Court ruled that it would be unlawful for the UK Government to trigger article 50 without an Act of Parliament. You can read the full judgment here.
The UK Government have said that they will appeal the High Court decision to the Supreme Court next month.
What are the views of the Welsh Government?
Following the High Court decision, the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM restated the Welsh Government’s position:
“The position of the Welsh Government has been consistent throughout – we accept the decision made by the people and will not work against the referendum result,”
“We are working hard to get the best possible exit terms for Wales. However, it is important that votes take place in all four nations to endorse the UK negotiating position.”
The National Assembly for Wales
The National Assembly for Wales’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee have been looking at the implications for Wales once the UK leaves the EU. From trade models and international law, the implications for agriculture to research and investment, the Committee have been seeking the views of experts to help them understand the issues Wales could face.
The Committee now want to hear your views on what should be the top priority for Wales before the formal process of exiting the EU. You can submit your views here or keep up to date by following them on Twitter @SeneddEAAL.