On Tuesday 24th January, the UK Supreme Court ruled that parliament would have to vote before Article 50 could be invoked, and Britain could leave the European Union. The Conservative government, led by prime minister Theresa May, were hoping for the court to rule that government could begin proceedings without the vote, however parliament were keen to be able to have their say on both the bill itself, and amendments they want to discuss before negotiations with the EU begin.
The bill will need to be passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. So how will businesses be affected?
Businesses may have to wait a little longer for the dust to settle and to be in a clear position when it comes to how trade with EU countries will work, and trade with other countries when operating as a separate entity from the single market, warn experts in business finance operations such as Touch Financial. The government aim to introduce the bill as soon as possible – potentially within a couple of weeks – but how long it then takes to be discussed, and have any amendments made, is not known. Labour have said they will not try to ‘frustrate’ the process of organising Brexit, however other MPs, for example from the SNP, have considerable points they want to discuss. There is then the matter of getting the bill through the House of Lords.
While all of this is happening, things will be a little unclear for businesses who intend to trade outside of the UK, though they will obviously have to continue operating under EU regulations until Brexit actually occurs. Strategies for international trade and trading between currencies will be difficult to set up, however, until proper negotiations have been made following the invocation of Article 50.
Could Parliament Reverse the Decision on Brexit as a Result of This?
Businesses who have a pro-European stance may have been hoping that this ruling would mean Article 50 wouldn’t be invoked at all. However, while parliament could technically force a remain, this almost certainly won’t happen. Conservative MPs, of which there are a majority of 15, are all expected to vote in favour of the bill, with the one notable exception of Ken Clarke, who has always been pro-remain. Labour’s official line is that they don’t want to hold the process up, and there are some pro-Brexit Labour and Lib Dem MPs too, so really the House of Commons is most unlikely to do anything more than try and amend the bill.
What About the Lords?
The House of Lords has the potential to try and quash the bill as many of its members are independent and pro-Europe. However, if Article 50 is not invoked this is likely to mean a general election, and this is a situation the House of Lords wants to avoid because their very role and existence will probably be a major issue in the next election.
In short, all the ruling really means for businesses is that they may have to wait a bit longer to be able to formulate plans for how they will trade internationally post Brexit.