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Attorney Says Final Brexit Deal Likely Needs Lawmaker Vote

  • James Eadie tells court Parliament would get vote on new deal
  • Eadie makes comments on third day of Brexit challenge lawsuit

A U.K. government attorney fighting a lawsuit trying to limit Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to trigger the country’s exit from the European Union said any final agreement over Brexit would need to be ratified by Parliament.

It is "very likely" that the House of Commons and the House of Lords would get a vote on any new treaty, even though it’s possible that May could proceed without one, lawyer James Eadie said Tuesday. His comments didn’t address the central question of whether May can trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins a two-year countdown to Britain’s exit, without calling a vote in Parliament.

"There’s a very strong argument for the government allowing the approval of a deal reached, but of course it would prefer a vote after Article 50 is triggered," said Robert Thomas, professor of public law at the University of Manchester. Against the backdrop of a ticking clock, lawmakers would be "pressured to agree" to any deal, he said.

The lawsuit brought by claimants Gina Miller, who runs an investment startup, and Deir Dos Santos, a hairdresser, could undermine May’s plans to invoke Article 50 by the end of March. Any delay would cheer investors concerned that the prime minister is prioritizing immigration controls over safeguards for trade and banking.

After the hearing ended Tuesday, Lord Chief Justice John Thomas said the court would issue a ruling as quickly as possible.

In a sign of how closely the lawsuit is being monitored, the pound climbed more than 0.5 percent against the dollar following Eadie’s comments, which he made during the third day of the hearings in the case. The currency rose more than 1 percent on the day.

Pound’s 12-month performance undermined by Brexit vote.

Lawmakers will also have a "central role" in amending domestic legislation to replace EU law rights, Eadie said.

Miller’s lawyer David Pannick said that holding a parliamentary vote after Article 50 was triggered would be too late, as legal rights would already have been given up and could only be restored at the discretion of other member states.

“By the time Parliament comes to look at the matter post-notification, the die is cast,” he told the judge, responding to Eadie’s comments. “Its hands are tied by that stage.”

The government “is kicking the can down the road by saying MPs will get a vote at some stage, but in the mean time we’ll worry about the negotiations," Thomas said.

June Referendum

On Monday, Attorney General Jeremy Wright told the court that the lawsuit is little more than an attempt to overturn the results of the June 23 referendum.

The pound has plunged since the referendum on concerns over the prime minister’s hard-line stance on negotiations with the EU. The U.K. dropped out of businesses’ top five locations for investments for the first time in seven years as fears about the country’s Brexit plan added complexity to international deals, consultants Ernst & Young LLP said in a survey of executives.

Any opinion from the panel of judges would have to be handed down in time for the parties to prepare for an appeal to the Supreme Court in December.

Asked whether Parliament could vote on triggering Article 50 and the final agreement on the terms of Brexit, Theresa May’s spokeswoman Helen Bower said "those are all possibilities."

"We don’t yet know what we will have at the outcome so we can’t be categorical."

— With assistance by Jeremy Hodges, and Tim Ross

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