The High Court's ruling on Article 50

The decision of the High Court that the Government cannot trigger Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the EU without parliamentary approval has been controversial, yet it should not be.

Let’s be clear what this decision was not.  It was not about whether or not Brexit is right or wrong.  Nor was it an attempt by judges to delay or frustrate the result.

The court was concerned with a legal point alone, which is whether the Government can use the Royal Prerogative or not.  The judges, who included the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls - the most senior in the land - were very clear that it could not, and that Parliament must give its approval.

So the attack by the Daily Mail which on its front page called the judges “enemies of the people” and smeared them with personal attacks, was nothing short of a disgrace.

The independence of our courts is one of the foundations of our freedoms.

The irony is that it seems certain that the majority of MPs would vote to trigger Article 50 anyway, which is why I’ve said that the Government would be wise to allow a vote whether or not it is required legally.

Whatever the legal position, most MPs believe that the referendum had explicit moral authority.

Put simply, MPs legislated to give the people a say.  We cannot then ignore the result because we do not like it.

Yes, people felt misled by Leave claims during the campaign.  It was never true that EU membership cost us £350 million a week or that this sum would instead be spent on the NHS when we left.

But false claims in an election campaign, however reprehensible,  aren’t in themselves enough to nullify the result.

It’s also true that the result was a narrow one - but it was clear and decisive.  

That’s why, even as someone who led campaigning for a remain vote, within hours of the referendum outcome I said that the result must be respected.

If there is a vote on Article 50 I will vote for it to be triggered.  I neither seek to delay nor prevent Brexit.

I do however believe that Parliament should debate this matter, that the Government should set out a broad plan ahead of the negotiations, and that while we must leave the EU a 'hard' Brexit would be unnecessarily damaging to the economy.

I believe it is my duty to ensure that the public’s decision in the referendum is implemented.  But it is also my duty to ensure that we secure a sensible Brexit and the best possible new arrangements for my constituents and the country.

Nick Herbert