One topic that is constantly on everyone’s minds is Brexit and today, we at Arlingsworth, are discussing the recent High Court case on Article 50, and what impact this may have on you and Brexit itself.

Background to the Case

Firstly, a bit of history to the case! The UK initially joined the European Union (otherwise known as the European Communities many years ago) on 1st January 1973, after Parliament had passed the 1972 European Communities Act. The nature of the Act enabled Community law to be given effect in the UK, through Parliament enacting legislation in order to achieve the conditions of membership. The Act’s introduction has meant that, over time, numerous rights have been incorporated into domestic law, such as the right for access to healthcare, the right to free movement and the right to equal pay and treatment in the workplace.

But, after passing the European Referendum Act in 2015, the Government held a referendum on 23rd June 2016, with the outcome being that the UK should leave after 52% of voters favoured Brexit. The Referendum Act itself did not mention that legislation was needed for notice to be given under Article 50.

Article 50 governs the process for withdrawal, where once notice is given to withdraw a Member State (in this case us, the UK) will have a two year period in which to negotiate a withdrawal agreement. At the end of this period, if no agreement is reached and subject to a unanimous European Council extension, the EU treaties will not apply.

Key Facts

The case ultimately centred on whether the UK government’s intentions to use a special power (known as the Royal prerogative), in order to give effect to the ‘will of the people’ by serving notice of Article 50, could outweigh the requirement of Parliamentary approval in the event of fundamental changes to individual rights after invoking Article 50.

If you aren’t familiar with the Royal prerogative, it is essentially special powers the Government have, in very limited circumstances, which don’t require Parliamentary involvement. However, the Royal prerogative cannot be used to override legislation enacted by Parliament or to repeal rights of individuals that are available at domestic law without the approval of Parliament.


The Court rejected the Government’s argument concluding they do not have the power to invoke Article 50 without Parliament’s involvement.

The Government’s argument that Parliament must have intended for the Government to retain its prerogative power under the 1972 Act on whether to effect a withdrawal from the Treaties was dismissed by the Court as the absence of express wording in the Act supporting the Government’s argument, did not mean there was an implied power for them to act. The same argument was used and consequently dismissed regarding the 2015 Referendum Act. The Court stated the Government’s argument was ‘contrary to the language used in the 1972 Act and to the fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of Parliament.’

What Now?

Being one of the most important constitutional cases of our generation, the outcome will generate heated debate and interest from politicians, lawyers and the public alike.

The ruling has now meant triggering Article 50 in March 2017 will seem unlikely, despite the Government stating it won’t affect their timeline. Ultimately, the decision will now result in Article 50 (very likely) being delayed as it can only be triggered once Parliament are ready and happy with a deal. It may even allow those who voted remain to have a louder voice in Parliament and potentially even influencing the terms of the exit package.

One conclusion that must be dismissed is that the decision will prevent Brexit from taking place; it will likely only be delayed. However, one outcome that could occur is an early general election which could throw up many other hurdles to Brexit.

If you are unsure of your rights and any potential changes as a result of Brexit and want to get expert legal advice, then give our experts a call on 01273 696962request a callback, or email And don’t forget, to stay up to date with the latest Brexit news that may affect you, follow us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn .