Gina Miller’s (and others – an example of pressure group action) legal challenge about who can invoke Article 50 is a significant one. She argued that Theresa May cannot use her prerogative powers to invoke Article 50, but must consult Parliament. She said: “The case is that she cannot use something called the royal prerogative to do it, because we do not live in a tinpot dictatorship, we live in a country that has a sovereign Parliament.” A coalition of anti-Brexit campaigners took a case against the Government, arguing Ms May cannot trigger Article 50 without consulting parliament. Their lawyers told the court, that constitutional law establishes that only parliament can take away rights of British citizens, and some rights would be lost upon losing EU citizenship, MPs must vote on whether to trigger Article 50 in order to begin Brexit’s formal processes. The High Court backed the challengers and sided against the Government.
This case is a fabulous example for all elements of Unit 2. The ruling limits prerogative powers and upholds parliamentary sovereignty – great for any discussion of where political sovereignty lies or the relationship between the executive and legislature.
In addition, the story provides great evidence for the judiciary topic. Undoubtedly this is a great example of judges having an impact on policy. The relationship between judiciary and executive has certainly been strained by this ruling against the government. The government immediately announced that it would appeal to the Supreme Court (due to be heard in December). Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, came under pressure from the Bar Association and MPs to speak out in favour of judicial independence in the wake of vitriolic attacks by the media. She now has done, but the fact that it took her two days and this degree of pressure hints at tension between the two branches of government.
Moreover, there have been discussions about judicial independence and neutrality from UKIP. UKIP’s Suzanne Evans described the verdict as a ‘power grab’ by judges and suggested that the judges should be sacked. She also claimed that judges should be subject to ‘some form of democratic control’ – all of this challenges the principle of judicial independence. It has also been suggested by UKIP that the judges acted politically in this case, and that at least one of the judges used the case to frustrate and prevent Brexit, and so the judges were not neutral.