The Invocation of Article 50

Background: Legal opinion is divided on whether Parliament must be involved in triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which starts the withdrawal negotiations, or whether the Prime Minister can invoke it by executive order without parliamentary consent. Theresa May has said she will not trigger Article 50 until “a UK approach and objectives for negotiations” is agreed - which implies parliamentary involvement in setting objectives, also that she wants “the Scottish Government to be fully engaged in [the] discussion”, which implies willingness to consult. Parliament’s role in the invocation is uncertain.

There are currently seven legal cases launched with the aim of ensuring Article 50 can only be triggered by parliamentary consent. The cases are being heard together and are expected to reach the Supreme Court in October. If the court rules for the plaintiffs, triggering Article 50 must have parliamentary consent. If the court rules against the  plaintiffs, Article 50 may be triggered by executive order. In the meantime, MPs need to be asked to support Parliament’s involvement in the decision to invoke Article 50. It is vital that the Westminster Parliament fully discusses all possible UK approaches to negotiations in full consultation with the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies before any decision to invoke Article 50 is taken. If an approach can be agreed, and Parliament votes to trigger Article 50, the approach could then be the subject of an ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ referendum, preferably with the Electoral Commission mandated to check and correct misleading information.

Tell your MP why you think parliamentary involvement is important - for example:
• It is Parliament that is sovereign in the UK and triggering Article 50 has huge constitutional implications. It needs to be approached via a fully democratic and transparent process which involves consultation with the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies as well as the Westminster Parliament at every stage in the decision making process.
• Ideally, given that the practicalities of leaving the EU were induced by a referendum, any agreed negotiating objectives should be offered to the electorate via an ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ referendum with the Electoral Commission mandated to check and correct misinformation before the vote.
• Because the UK is a parliamentary democracy in which MPs are elected to represent all their constituents whatever their voting preferences, it is difficult to see how a referendum result can bypass the involvement of Parliament in the subsequent decision making process. Referendum results are only advisory, they are not binding and with such a close result a fully democratic and transparent process on all related decisions is essential.

Ask your MP - for example:
• Please can you let me know whether you support Parliament’s involvement in the many decisions related to the invocation of Article 50?
• Will you be asking the Prime Minister to fully include the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies in all discussions on negotiating objectives?
• Will you be asking the Prime Minister to seek Parliament’s consent for all decisions related to the negotiating position prior to consideration of triggering Article 50?
• Will you be asking the Prime Minister to put the negotiating objectives to an ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ referendum?
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Questions on what your MP is going to do reduce their options for reiterating party opinion.

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