The CEO of the Legatum Institute and Conservative Peer, Baroness Stroud
looks at the possible outcomes in Parliament and wider politics as a result of the Government losing this case.
We have just heard that the government has just lost its case in the Supreme Court. This was not wholly unexpected and is an event carefully prepared for by No 10. They will be ready and have a plan to address every potential variant of the Supreme Court’s verdict. Their key objective will be to protect the timetable for the triggering of Article 50. Their next move will be to introduce a one line Bill that will ensure that Parliament enshrines in law the decision of the British people to leave the European Union.
It has been rumoured that the Government has 4 different versions of this one line Bill ready to go to the Commons and Lords as swiftly as possible to ensure that the timetable for triggering Article 50 is protected. I can remember when the Benefit Cap case was heard by the Supreme Court. We had emergency legislation ready to go if required (although even with 50:50 odds the one line bill was never needed.)
So, what is the way forward from here? There will be much huffing and puffing from many political and media sources (this is the stuff of multiple column inches) but Article 50 will still be triggered by the end of March. Labour is in such disarray that even if 60 of its MP’s vote against it (the maximum predicted by even the most negative of pundits), the Government will still have the numbers in the Commons to see the legislation pass. When it comes to the Lords, convention would have it that when the democratic will of the people has been so clearly expressed, the Lords may well speak against it but not vote against it.
The key thing is that the Government needs to ensure that the Bill it presents to the House is as tightly worded as possible to prevent it being slowed down with amendments In many ways this has to do with the title of the Bill. The title of the Bill needs to be drawn up so tightly that it will be hard for MPs to make amendments to it, and both Houses should then vote it through.
It is also worth noting this outcome gives much needed clarity to the position of the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, stating that the devolved administrations have no veto right, and therfore once the Bill is passed the Government will have the certainty it needs to negotiate with our trading partners on behalf of the whole United Kingdom.