By Ellise Nicholls
On 13th October, a legal challenge to the government’s right to formally begin Brexit without parliamentary approval went under way in what has been considered the most constitutional case in generations.
Government lawyers are set to argue before three judges at the High Court in London that the prime minister is legally entitled to use the royal prerogative to begin the process of Britain leaving the EU.
Opponents, however, are arguing that PM Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 by using royal prerogative without the consent of parliament.
During May’s first Conservative Party conference, she announced that she intends to trigger article 50 by the end of March 2017, formally notifying the EU of the UK’s intention to leave. This follows the UK’s decision to leave the EU in June’s referendum, with the yes campaign winning by a marginal 51.9% and the no campaign with 48.1%.
The EU has said that negotiations about the Brexit term’s cannot begin until Article 50 has been invoked – a process due to last two years.
On Monday 17th, the judicial review will be heard by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Thomas.
Gina Miller, an investment manager, will be contesting against the government’s authority to proceed without recourse to Parliament.
Ms Miller told the BBC radio 4’s Today programme that “the government cannot use this ancient secretive royal prerogative” to conduct the negotiations.
“Did the people who voted to leave really vote for an executive arm, for the prime minister and a handful of her ministers, to bypass parliament? are we now going into dictatorial landscape?” she said.
Her legal team is arguing that invoking Article 50 will threaten the rights of individuals enshrined in the 1972 European Communities Act – the act of parliament which paved the way for the UK to join the European Economic Community.
The PM has accepted the need to have “full and transparent” parliamentary scrutiny before triggering Brexit, telling MP Angela Eagle. “The idea that Parliament somehow wasn’t going to be able to discuss, debate, question issues around Brexit was frankly completely wrong. Parliament’s going to have every opportunity to debate this issue.”
However, the concession does not go as far as specifying that MPs will get a formal vote on article 50 and any other Brexit deal. May used her party conference speech last week to suggest she would use the vote as a mandate for tougher immigration controls and a more interventionist government.