Scotland to intervene in Brexit legal case

  • 09/11/2016
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Reuters)
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Reuters)

Britain's Supreme Court has granted the government permission to appeal against a High Court ruling last week that parliament's approval was required before the formal process of leaving the European Union could begin.

The Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had set aside four days, December 5 to 8, to hear the appeal. It said all 11 of its justices would sit on the appeal panel, which would be chaired by its President Lord Neuberger.

"Judgment will be reserved at the conclusion of that hearing and follow at a later date, probably in the New Year," the court said in a statement.

The news comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland will throw its weight behind campaigners trying to force the British government to seek parliamentary approval to start the formal divorce procedure from the European Union.

Although the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave the EU in a June referendum, Scotland voted to remain and Sturgeon has vowed to protect Scottish interests in the coming negotiations with Brussels.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will begin the exit from the EU by triggering Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty before the end of next March and argues she can do so without the approval of parliament.

But a legal case coming before the Supreme Court next month challenges her right to start the process without a green light from lawmakers, and Scotland will side with those opposing her, Sturgeon said.

Scotland's most senior legal officer, the Lord Advocate, will lodge a formal application at the Supreme Court requesting to intervene in the case.

"Triggering Article 50 will directly affect devolved interests and rights in Scotland and deprive Scotland of rights and freedom," Sturgeon told reporters.

Sturgeon, a nationalist who heads the devolved Scottish government, said she believes that if courts decide definitively that the process of leaving the EU needs an act of parliament, Scotland's devolved parliament should also be formally consulted.

That could slow the Brexit process down further.