So the Westminster Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50 – but on what exactly and how often until Brexit is achieved? The battle has only just begun.
It’s bad news for nationalists everywhere. The Court ruled that the consent of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly is not legally required. The argument put forward by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and in the courts by Raymond McCord that under the GFA the Remain vote in Northern Ireland was binding was dismissed.
..section 1 Northern Ireland Act, which gave the people of Northern Ireland the right to determine whether to remain part of the UK or to become part of a united Ireland, does not regulate any other change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.
But that’s by no means the end of the matter. The Sewel Convention operates when the UK government ordinarily requests the consent of the devolved bodies for Westminster to legislate on matters affecting them. The ruling says that:
The Convention operates as a political constraint on the activity of the UK Parliament. It therefore plays an important role in the operation of the UK constitution. But the policing of its scope and operation is not within the constitutional remit of the courts.
It is therefore still open to the UK government to ask for the consent of the Scottish Welsh and NI devolved bodies, although it’s not binding. The Scottish government will throw everything into forcing the UK government to bend to its will under threat of another Indyref – as Nicola Sturgeon made immediately clear.
The SNP First minister Nicola Sturgeon used her new column in the Record on Monday warned in advance:
No matter what the supreme court decides, I want to make this crystal clear: I intend to make sure the Scottish parliament has the chance to vote on triggering article 50.
And if the UK government doesn’t start showing Scotland some respect, I’ll make sure that people across Scotland have the chance to choose their own future, before the Tories drag us off an economic cliff edge.
SNP MPs at Westminster have replied with pre–prepared dynamic action even before the Brexit secretary appeared before MPs to explain how the government intended to comply (£).
The SNP said that its 50 amendments would include a call on the UK government to publish a White Paper before invoking Article 50 and a requirement for unanimous agreement of a ministerial committee. There should also be agreement with the European Commission that failure of the UK Parliament to ratify the final terms of negotiation will result in a revision of the current terms of UK membership, the SNP said. “The prime minister and her hard Brexit brigade must treat devolved administrations as equal partners,” Mr Salmond said.
More later after the Commons statement from Brexit Secretary David Davis at 12.30. So far, nothing from the NI parties.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London