By Samuel LeGates, Franklin & Marshall College
The Supreme Court of Britain has ruled that their Parliament must vote on the future of Britain in regards to its departure from the European Union. A referendum was put forth to the British people which allowed them to vote on if the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. Brexit Secretary David Davis has assured the public that there will be a parliamentary bill put forward within the next couple of days. Per sources from BBC, the bill will be put forward this Thursday to cite Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Such article would start the process of negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU. There is debate over whether or not the British Parliament should be allowed to vote on this decision. The supporters stressed that not allowing House of Commons to vote would be undemocratic. The opponents of this argument sustain that, according to Royal Prerogatives, powers given to government officials by the Crown, the government could follow through with Brexit without the need to have a parliamentary vote.
After deliberating for four days, the Supreme Court ruled eight to three in favor of a parliamentary vote. According to Lord David Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, “To proceed otherwise would be a breach of settled constitutional principles stretching back many centuries.” Leaving the European Union is a complicated and revolutionary decision to make for the United Kingdom. By allowing the Parliament to vote, the country’s highest court shows that the referendum process was democratic and followed the proper manners in which these decisions should be made. To simply skip over parliamentary deliberation in a decision this important for the country would have seemed as if the government disregarded the opinions of its people. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose predecessor David Cameron resigned after the vote on Brexit, has vowed to keep the timeline for Brexit on track for March.
Part of the Supreme Court ruling was also the decision that the government did not need to consult with the governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland on Brexit. According to the decision these administrations do not have the right to veto the Brexit decision. I agree with their decision in this case. The fact that Brexit was reached by popular referendum is critical and it upholds democratic values. On top of that, Parliament acts as the general consensus for the United Kingdom concerning legislation. Allowing other governments on the British peninsula to have a veto would set a controversial precedent. One of the plaintiffs in this case summed up my stance on the issue. Gina Miller stated that: “Only parliament can grant rights to the British people and only parliament can take them away. No prime minister and no government can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged. Parliament alone is sovereign.”. If the decision to exit the European Union is passed by Parliament, it shows that the process was thoroughly democratic and fair while at the same time it will garner legitimacy for the proponents of Brexit. Overall, allowing a parliamentary vote will not significantly change the decision on Brexit. Yet, it ensures a democratic and complete decision making process that enhances legitimacy.
Sources: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-38721650 and http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/24/europe/brexit-article-50-supreme-court-ruling/