Representing the People vs Channelling Them: Constitutional Niceties in an Age of Instant Democratic Gratification. Episode 2: The Supreme Court

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Table of Contents: I. The Brexit Judgment. – II. The role of Parliament in Brexit. – III. Conclusion.

Abstract: On 24 January 2017, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has decided that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom cannot serve notice under Article 50 TEU that the UK wishes to leave the European Union unless the British Parliament has authorized this by Act of Parliament. The prerogative powers of the Prime Minister do not extend to domestic regulation or deregulation, which would be the inevitable effect of withdrawal from the UK. This judgment confirms the decision of the High Court in November 2016, which had been received with horror by those in favour of Brexit. They fear that Parliament will attempt to impose conditions on the process and achieve a soft, or even half- Brexit. This seems in fact unlikely, and judicial affirmation of the sovereignty of Parliament is an unlikely focus for nationalist ire. This note looks at the judgment, the constitutional logic behind it, and its possible consequences.

Keywords: Brexit – UK constitutional law – Article 50 TEU – prerogative – separation of powers – treaty-making.

European Papers, Vol. 1, 2016, No 3, pp. 777-781
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/103

* Professor of European Law, VU University Amsterdam,



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