Lord Neuberger, delivering the judgement [Image: BBC].

Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, has just announced that the Conservative Government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, authorising the UK’s departure from the European Union, without an Act of Parliament.

To do otherwise, he said, “would be a breach of principles stretching back hundreds of years”.

He said: “The Supreme Court rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament authorising it to do so.”

The ruling was by a majority of eight Supreme Court judges to three against.

But the UK Parliament is not legally compelled to consult the devolved regional authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, he said.

Here’s the text of the ruling, from the Supreme Court’s website:

“The Supreme Court by a majority of 8 to 3 dismisses the Secretary of State’s appeal (Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption and Lord Hodge in the majority with Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath and Lord Hughes dissenting). In a joint judgment of the majority, the Supreme Court holds that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union. Each of the dissenting justices gives a separate judgment.

“On the devolution issues, the court unanimously concludes that neither section 1 nor section 75 of the NIA is of assistance in this case, and that the Sewel Convention does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation.

“The Supreme Court considers that the terms of the ECA [European Communities Act 1972], which gave effect to the UK’s membership of the EU, are inconsistent with the exercise by ministers of any power to withdraw from the EU Treaties without authorisation by a prior Act of Parliament.

“The 2016 referendum is of great political significance. However, its legal significance is determined by what Parliament included in the statute authorising it, and that statute simply provided for the referendum to be held without specifying the consequences. The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation.

“The Government accepts that the resolution of the House of Commons on 7 December 2016 calling on ministers to give notice under Article 50 by 31 March 2017 is a political act which does not affect the issues arising in the appeals.”

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