As the Times cartoon this morning illustrated, the Government’s desire to take back control has been undone… by the High Court reasserting its powers to hold the Government to account. The decision that Parliament should have final say on the triggering of Article 50 has added another wrinkle to the already turbulent process of extricating the UK from the European Union.
On Monday, the Government will give its official statement stating its intention to appeal to the Supreme Court. The court itself will not meet until December, adding yet more turbulence to the UK’s economy and another challenge for the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement to surmount. Until then Parliament and the British people will also be faced with yet more obscurity from the three Brexiteers as even the one remaining constant that “Brexit means Brexit” may no longer be true anymore.
A view from Europe
Meanwhile in Europe, reaction to the decision has been publically muted. The official line from the majority of EU Member States has been that the UK should leave the EU as soon as practically possible, to avoid uncertainty and instability in the bloc. Behind closed doors however, the potential delay that the vote in Parliament could bring will not be welcome news. Faced with potentially difficult elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands next year, EU Members will be keen to keep the timetable on track – ensuring that the UK leaves by Spring 2019 before the next European Parliament elections. Theresa May today re-assured Jean-Claude Juncker and Angela Merkel that Brexit will not be derailed by yesterday’s result. A wise move – up until the moment that the UK officially leaves the EU (once agreement is given from the European Parliament and the Great Repeal Bill has passed through the House of Commons and House of Lords) the UK is still very much a member of the EU and will not want to further damage an already fragile relationship.
To whip or not to whip
Should the Supreme Court uphold the decision to provide Parliament with control over the triggering of Article 50, the Prime Minister will be faced with a difficult conundrum. Will she allow MP’s to have a free vote, so as to avoid the ignominy of MP’s rebelling against the Government, or will she risk revolt in the knowledge that a three line whip coupled with Northern Ireland’s DUP will give her a comfortable margin over Remain dominated opposition? This question becomes ever more fraught however following the resignation of Stephen Phillips, who whilst a strident Brexiteer has still found the Government’s exit strategy and lack of Parliamentary oversight intolerable, a feeling potentially shared by some of his colleagues in blue.
Time to wait and see
Europe, Remainers and Brexiteers will all have to wait with bated breath until December to see if the UK’s courts take back control of Brexit on behalf of Parliament, or if the last remaining roadbump to a 2019 exit finally gets removed.