At 9:30am on Tuesday 24th January, the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament had to be the body that officially gives permission to trigger Article 50, the process by which the UK formally notifies the EU of it’s intention to leave and begins a two year period in which to reach a negotiated agreement. The decision followed a ruling from the High Court before the end of last year which said the very same thing.
Everyone expected the Government to lose this case. Even the Government expected to lose this case by this week. I personally don’t understand why the Government chose to appeal the High court decision in the first place. They were never going to win. Instead weeks have been wasted, including tax payer money, where instead legislation could have been debated and passed, which would have moved us closer to triggering Article 50.
This however is now all history, and the ramifications of today’s Supreme Court ruling are now starting to sink in. So lets start of with what we know.
Parliament must trigger Article 50
What this means is that the Government must introduce legislation, have it debated and then passed, in order to trigger Article 50. Brexit Secretary David Davis has said in the House of Commons this afternoon that this would be a simple bill, designed to be as straightforward as possible. He also warned MPs not to use it as a means to hold up the decision of triggering Article 50.
Realistically, there is almost no risk of Parliament not passing this bill, whatever it may consist of. The Conservatives have a majority Government, and all but Ken Clarke, very much in the pro-EU camp, have already indicated that they will go with the Government. Much of the Labour Party have also said they will vote to pass the bill, backing the Government to then go ahead and notify the EU. The only ones that look set to vote against the proposed Article 50 bill will be the SNP, where Scotland voted to remain in the EU, the Lib Dems, the few of them that there are and a few others scattered about the House of Commons.
This bill is expected to be announced on Thursday of this week. It is very likely that we will be measuring the length of this bill in words, rather than sentences. Theresa May and her brexit cabinet want this as simple and as swift as possible. Although Labour have explained that they plan to put forward at least three amendments. The SNP have said they will put forward 50. Still, they’re unlikely to cause too much disruption to the process and the Government is likely to have the bill debated, amended, voted and passed within a fortnight. If this happens, we could see Theresa May trigger Article 50 before the end of March which was her self-imposed deadline.
Uncertain future for the Union
On the domestic front, the Supreme Court also declared that the devolved administrations, being Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, do not get their own say on the matter. This is a particular problem for Nicola Sturgeon. She has said that there is now a very high chance of a second independence referendum. One SNP MP on Radio 5 Live this morning said it could happen by Autumn 2018.
There are many complexities to this. Way too many to state in this post. I may dive into the matter on DGB Business or my personal column in a post in the near future. However, what is clear is that for Scotland to leave the UK but to also automatically remain a member of the EU and single market is highly improbable.
The UK’s future as a whole however does now have a question mark hanging over it. Scotland seems to be increasingly vocal about their independence. Even without Brexit, I think it is likely that in the medium term, Scotland will eventually go independent anyway.
A need to get on
Parliament will have it’s debate. A bill triggering Article 50 will be passed. We will be leaving the EU. We’re now at a point in this process where we now have to get on with it.
One of the biggest reasons for the fall in the value of Sterling has been uncertainty more than anything else. The UK economy has been resilient beyond any forecast. But it’s the lack of a path forwards which has caused the drop in the pound’s value. The sooner we can get on that path of negotiation, financial markets may begin to know the lay of the land over time. We may see some value return to our currency as some of the details of the potential deals begin to be ironed out.
But we also have to be as outward looking as possible, both economically and socially. I believe there is a genuine chance for the UK to be a bonafide global leader over the next couple of years thanks to the lay of the political land. Donald Trump looks like he’s going to be the most protectionist President in US history. Europe faces major elections in France and Germany in April and May which could see yet more political earthquakes. Italy could still derail the European banking sector. Whilst our partners around us battle their own fires at home, we should be getting into positions both at home and abroad to generate a new revolution in trade, exports and contra-deals between countries all around the world. The signs already look good for this, from what I can see. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent our country for the better.
The UK glazing market should see the benefits of this, if our Government can strike the right deals and keep the economy on a stable and balanced footing. PM May’s Government has announced a raft of new initiatives which I’ll be exploring over on DGB Business in the next few days. But on the face of it, there looks to be some good foundations there to work on.
So, we got the result we all expected. It is now time to get to work on passing the bill trigger Article 50 and then to get down to work on hammering out the very best deal we can get by March 2019.
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