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  • 24th January 2017 - 11:40 GMT

UK Supreme Court decision is a victory for common sense

The UK Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the earlier ruling of the country’s High Court to block the use of the royal prerogative to invoke Article 50 of The Lisbon Treaty is a victory for common sense. In doing so, it leaves the door open for the UK Parliament or its people to change their minds should they ever wish to do so.

Jo Leinen, a German Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Movement International said, “As a parliamentarian and a democrat I welcome the Supreme Court ruling. It should fall upon the U.K. Parliament to decide whether the rights conferred upon British citizens by Parliament can be removed due to Britain’s exit from the EU.

The ruling, one of major constitutional importance for the UK, which involved a panel of 11 Supreme Court justices rather than the usual 5, ensures that a legislative act is needed to trigger the UK’s exit from the EU.

Mr Leinen MEP added, “We have a long negotiation ahead of us and we must keep the interests of people in mind, not least the British people. If at any stage they feel that life outside of the EU pales by comparison to life inside the EU, they can rest assured that the EU will be prepared to see an end to the Article 50 process and welcome our British friends back.

The European Movement has long argued that the UK is more dependent on the EU than vice versa, given that 60% of total UK trade is covered by EU membership and the preferential access it grants to 53 markets outside the EU.

Axel Schäfer, Member of the German Parliament and Vice-President of the European Movement Germany, said “It is a widely held belief across the German political spectrum that a British exit from the EU has only losers. It’s bad for Britain and it is bad for Europe. If at the end of that process, or at any other point, it becomes clear that being part of the EU is more advantageous than leaving, as we have long argued, then I see no reason why we cannot keep Britain as an EU member, even after Article 50 is triggered. A Britain committed to building a stronger Europe will always be a welcome partner.

While, this decision is unlikely to significantly delay the triggering of Article 50, it will now be up to all legislative bodies, notably the opposition Labour Party, to decide whether or not they will demand that further conditions are met.

Marcin Święcicki, Member of the Polish Parliament and President of the European Movement in Poland argued “The final decision on accession to the EU is taken only after the results of the negotiations on the Accession Treaty are complete, so all the conditions of accession are well defined. In 1994 Norway changed its mind and the accession treaty was rejected in a referendum. The same should be applied to the exit procedure. If the outcome of the exit negotiations between the UK and the EU are less appealing to British citizens than staying in the EU, they should have an option to change their original decision. The rest of the EU will only welcome with satisfaction a decision to change their mind.

The internal UK debate on the outcome of last year’s referendum is set to continue. The devolved assemblies in Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be pushing to ensure they receive a consultative role in the process.

Morten Helveg Petersen, a Danish MEP, stated “We have to respect the decision of the British people – a decision we need to take into serious consideration. But with that being said it’s still our responsibility within the EU to ensure that the relationship to Britain remains strong and valuable. We have to let the British people know that the door to the EU is still open to them and that they are more than welcome should they wish to walk through it.

Article 50 says that a Member State can leave “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”, but with such loosely defined terms and lack of a clear vision by those advocating to leave, there remains much uncertainty.

Notes to the Editors
1. The European Movement International is one of the largest pan and pro-European civil society organisations with currently more than 75 Member Organisations, bringing together representatives from European associations, political parties, enterprises and trade unions.
2. Read the European Movement’s paper on ‘The consequences of a British exit from the European union’ here (published May 2016).

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