Are judges deciding whether the UK will leave the EU?

30 September 2016
What was claimed

Judges are going to decide on whether the UK will leave the EU.

Our verdict

The courts will decide whether Parliament has to have a say or not, rather than the government going ahead with Brexit by itself. It’s not directly a question about whether the vote should be upheld, which isn’t a legal matter.

“Now you have a situation where you have people in court, at the High Court, to ask this question, which this government never dealt with: does the Prime Minister have the right to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50?”

Bonnie Greer, 29 September 2016

“You don't seriously believe that a vote of the people of this country, who decided to leave the European Union, should be decided by a judge in chambers…?”

Steven Woolfe MEP, 29 September 2016

“He’s not asked to decide it”

David Dimbleby, 29 September 2016

The Lord Chief Justice and two other judges will hear a case about the process of leaving the EU in October. They will not be asked to decide whether the referendum vote is valid or not.

Ms Greer’s description of the scope of the case is almost textbook. It’s about whether Parliament has to authorise the triggering of Article 50 by passing a law or resolution. If not, the Prime Minister—or perhaps the whole Cabinet—could take the decision without consulting Parliament.

But, if the judges decide that the government can’t take the decision alone, that means that starting the process of leaving the EU could be blocked by MPs or Lords. The government is committed to following the referendum result, whereas those in Parliament have differing attitudes to leaving the EU.

The referendum had no legal effect in itself.

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