The Scottish government will seek to join a Brexit legal challenge, adding to the growing number of voices calling for a vote in Parliament before Prime Minister Theresa May can trigger the two-year countdown to departure from the European Union.
The U.K. Supreme Court confirmed this afternoon that it would hear the English Brexit cases in December. If the court accepts claims from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it would set up a constitutional showdown between May and legislative bodies throughout the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s Lord Advocate will seek to take part in the English legal action, the Scottish government said today. Ben Wilson, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, said it hadn’t yet received any formal application by Scotland or the other state assemblies to participate.
Triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty “will inevitably deprive Scottish people and Scottish businesses of rights and freedoms which they currently enjoy,” said Nicola Sturgeon, the country’s First Minister. “So legislation should be required at Westminster and the consent of the Scottish Parliament should be sought” before that notice, she said.
A finance entrepreneur, a hairdresser and a group of Britons living abroad won their legal challenge on 3 November when three senior London judges ruled that May couldn’t legally invoke Article 50 without first holding a vote in Parliament. The U.K. Supreme Court said it had accepted the case and would hold hearings between 5 December and 8 December, and issue its ruling in the new year. May’s government wants to trigger the notice by the end of March, avoiding the delay and uncertainty that would be caused by a MP vote.
A judge in Belfast today also heard arguments on whether similar Brexit cases in Northern Ireland should be referred to the Supreme Court as well. He deferred a decision until later this week.