Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

An affirmation of parliamentary sovereignty

Leave voters should welcome the supreme court’s article 50 ruling, writes former Labour Leave general secretary Brendan Chilton

The Twittersphere went into frenzy today following the supreme court’s ruling that parliament should have its say on when article 50 should be invoked. Remainers cooed with delight that Brexit faced another delay. Brexiteers raged that the will of the people was being frustrated  Whatever the decision of the court it was inevitable that a row would ensue.

During the referendum campaign I was head of the Labour Leave campaign and played a prominent role in the overall Leave effort, which ultimately won. I was delighted with the outcome and believe passionately that it was the right decision for our country to leave the European Union. But now, the referendum is over and it is time for those who voted Remain and Leave to come together and ensure that Brexit works for everyone and that the United Kingdom benefits from the opportunities it provides.

Many on the Leave side will be frustrated with the decision of the court today. I campaigned for and voted to leave the EU to restore parliamentary sovereignty. I wanted our parliament to be the democratic body of this nation, with the power to legislate and represent the people without consequence from Brussels. Today, the supreme court has voted by majority to support the view that parliament should have a vote on when article 50 is triggered; in doing so, it has affirmed parliament’s sovereignty.

I am not concerned by this decision at all. All of the main political parties have now stated they will respect the outcome of the referendum and that the UK will leave the EU. Therefore I fully expect to see the overwhelming majority of members of parliament to vote to restore parliamentary sovereignty by voting to invoke article 50 when the prime minister brings the bill to the house.

Parliament is the representative body of the British people. It is the place where our laws are proposed, debated, passed and sometimes rejected. It has not been the sovereign body of this nation since we joined the common market in 1973 when powers were transferred to the institutions of Brussels. What better way can be conceived to restore that parliamentary sovereignty other than to have our own MPs voting to begin the process to leave the EU.

The Labour party is in a difficult position given that the vast majority of its MPs campaigned to remain in the EU. However, 70 per cent of Labour-held constituencies voted to leave, as did the country. The 2020 general election would be challenging enough under normal circumstances and the fallout from Brexit does threaten to make them more challenging still. Labour needs to develop coherent and relatable policies on the economy and immigration and on other matters coming out of the Brexit debate. If the party is to develop these policies, we need clarity on what Labour’s vision of the UK in a post-Brexit world and that clarity can begin to emerge with Labour MPs voting in large numbers to invoke article 50.


Brendan Chilton was general secretary of Labour Leave. He tweets at @BrendanChilton



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Brendan Chilton


  • Brendan has his fingers on the pulse of the leave working class vote and it is a sign of the leadership lack of competence that they refuse to listen to him and John mills Kate hoey etc..On the way forward for the party in these areas ,I can assure you unless Labour gets its act together on brexit we will punished at the ballot box (rightly so) the refusal of some to accept the will of the British people is a stain on the party ….The time now is to move forward with policy to attract our core vote once again ,not to keep telling them immigration is good and the EU is fantastic..They won’t listen and we will leave the field clear for ukip to fill our place

  • There cannot be a Supreme Court in a sovereign parliamentary democracy. How would the Attlee Government have fared against a Supreme Court? If there must be a body by that name, then all appointments to it, and all rulings of it, must be subject to confirmatory resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament. Yes, that does necessitate primaries at least for major party candidates. And yes, it does necessitate an element of Proportional Representation. But above all, it necessitates far greater economic equality, without which universal suffrage is effectively meaningless, as is equal liberty under the law. If some people are far richer than others, then their votes and their liberties must inevitably count far more than the votes and liberties of others.

    Our 60-year-old Prime Minister is doing that thing of ending every sentence as if it were a question. What have we become? But a Brexit White Paper it is, then. The huge Remain majority of Conservative MPs put Theresa May in, and she is terrified of it. Britpop every night for the rest of this Parliament it is, then. Maastricht was also a very short Bill. And this isn’t even the repeal of the European Communities Act. Just wait for that. If it ever comes. I feel like a teenager again. I draw the line at going back to the cheap booze. But the music was good.

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