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Decoding Judgements: Understanding the Significance of R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

26 May 2023 | CaseSnappy Team

The Union Flag flying above the flag of the European Union.


Welcome back to the "Decoding Judgements" series! Our mission is to simplify complex English law cases through structured summaries using CaseSnappy. Today, we'll explore the key elements of R (on the application of Miller and another) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Appellant) [2017] UKSC 5 — a significant case in the Brexit saga that clarified the role of parliamentary approval in triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

Brexit and Article 50: Facts of the Case

R (Miller) v The Prime Minister focuses on the decision to trigger Article 50, commencing the process of the UK's departure from the European Union. Gina Miller and other individuals initiated the case, arguing that the government could not invoke Article 50 without first obtaining the approval of Parliament.

The Power to Trigger Article 50: Issues in the Case

The case hinged upon whether the government held the authority to trigger Article 50 without seeking parliamentary approval. The respondents (Miller and others) maintained that the government did not possess such powers due to the fundamental changes to domestic law that Brexit would cause. On the other hand, the government argued that it had the prerogative power to pursue Article 50 without parliamentary approval.

Parliamentary Approval Prevails: The Decision

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that triggering Article 50 without parliamentary approval was impermissible. The court concluded that invoking Article 50 would lead to significant alterations in domestic law, necessitating Parliament's consent. Furthermore, the court rejected the government's prerogative power argument, stating that such powers must adhere to the rule of law.

As Lord Neuberger aptly summarized, "the Royal prerogative to make and unmake treaties, which operates wholly on the international plane, cannot be exercised in relation to the EU Treaties." He went on to hold that, in this case, "the change in the law must be made in the only way in which the UK constitution permits, namely through Parliamentary legislation."

CaseSnappy: Empowering Law Enthusiasts

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union serves as an essential case in understanding the relationship between the UK government and its people regarding the Brexit process. CaseSnappy breaks down these significant cases into easily digestible summaries, ensuring that law students, lawyers, and those interested in legal matters have the crucial information at their fingertips.

Eager to dive deeper into the world of English law? Sign up for CaseSnappy for free and generate summaries of the most important legal cases in moments. Keep an eye out for the next installment of our "Decoding Judgements" series and remember: conquer the law, one case at a time.

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