High Court case shows the Government must give Parliament its say on Brexit

Commenting on the High Court judgement this morning, Pat McFadden MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:

“This is a positive step but it needs to be more than just a symbolic act.

“It was always wrong for the Government to try to stop Parliament having a meaningful say in how the UK leaves the EU.

“There is a mandate to leave the EU but there is no mandate for a hard, destructive Brexit. The terms on which we leave should be subject to rigorous debate and scrutiny - in Parliament and the country.

“A role for Parliament in the triggering of Article 50 is welcome. But Parliament should have a clear role in the substance of the Brexit negotiations, not just the process.

“Open Britain is calling on the Government to bring forward their substantive plans for the negotiations - in the equivalent of a White Paper - to be debated and voted on in Parliament before Article 50 is triggered.”


Just before he became Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis wrote about his preference for seeing a ‘pre-negotiation White Paper’ published:


This weekend it was reported that the Prime Minister published a pamphlet for a think tank in 2007, arguing that it should be “impossible to override” parliament. She wrote that “ministers should have to set out their negotiating positions” to a Commons committee “and gain its approval” before talks with the EU.


Research from Open Britain has previously revealed that the Prime Minister spoke in Parliament in favour of MPs voting to approve Government positions prior to negotiations with the EU. When Shadow Leader of the House in 2008, Theresa May said “we should have a statutory scrutiny reserve so that Ministers would have to gain parliamentary approval before negotiations in the Council of Ministers.”


Background on Open Britain’s Position:

  • Parliament will have a say at the end of the negotiation process – but we don’t believe this goes far enough. 
  • Any withdrawal agreement coming out of A50 would require ratification by the UK Parliament (NB: this is separate to the ratification process for any final Free Trade Agreement). It would trigger the treaty provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which require most treaties to be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days and give either House the power to delay ratification (indefinitely, in the case of the House of Commons). The 2010 Act does not require a debate or vote on treaty ratification, however, nor give Parliament the power to amend treaties.
  • This would, however, be accountability after the event. Parliament would be being asked to give its consent to a deal which had already been negotiated, which may present it with a take-it-or-leave it choice, with the Article 50 clock ticking and no guarantee of extension, which requires the unanimous support of the European Council.
  • Open Britain believes that there must be accountability and scrutiny before negotiations commence, with Parliament given a chance to give consent to the Government negotiation plan. This would:

a)       begin to heal the divisions of the campaign by finding common ground between Leave and Remain MPs;

b)      give the Government a stronger mandate when entering negotiations with the EU27;

c)       ensure rigorous debate and scrutiny of the UK’s negotiation position; and

d)      provide democratic accountability in the biggest decision our country will take in a generation.