On Thursday, the High Court ruled that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU. A written constitution might have taken care of that. On Friday, The Guardian speculated on the political implications.
How would MPs vote on article 50?
That’s not clear. Most MPs supported remain, but most represent constituencies that voted leave. This will go right to the heart of how the British constitution works: whether MPs should vote according to the wishes of their constituents or in their best judgement (leaving the electorate to decide whether to keep them in a job at the next election).
Having said that, leave was the majority view in nearly 70% of Labour seats for example, so it would probably be electoral suicide for the party’s MPs to rebel (or perhaps even abstain). Such a move could open the gates to UKIP.
Does it make an early general election more likely?
Yes, it must. That is one thing that MPs could possibly do to sort out the conflict between what they think is in the national interest and what their voters want. Although it is hard to think of a single Labour MP who would fancy the idea right now – and it would take a two-thirds majority in the Commons to trigger an early election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
• • • •
Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, said she believed colleagues on all sides of the Commons would vote in favour of triggering Article 50, but said “democracy has been asserted.”
“I am also very confident in colleagues in parliament; we are very aware of how people voted – 17 million – to leave the EU. I expect parliament will approve the triggering of the Article 50 process. It’s a question of law.”
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “This ruling underlines the need for the government to bring its negotiating terms to parliament without delay. Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.”