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 Tuesday 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 Tuesday. 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 Nov. 3 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 December 5 and Dec. 8, 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 lawmaker vote.
A judge in Belfast Tuesday 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. The Welsh Counsel General Mick Antoniw said last week that he would seek to intervene in the appeals to the Supreme Court as well.
The London court ruling on Nov. 3 led several British newspapers to attack interference by judges after the U.K. voted decisively to leave the European Union in a June referendum. The Daily Mail called the three judges “enemies of the people.” But pro-Europe politicians and senior lawyers defended the judiciary for upholding the U.K.’s democracy by ensuring a role for Parliament.
The government’s lawyers argue it has the right to begin enacting the referendum result on its own terms.
Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party has raised the possibility of another vote on independence from the U.K. after Scotland voted strongly to remain within the EU.
“If the SNP’s 56 Westminster MPs manage to delay the triggering of Article 50 along with Labour, the Lib Dems and Tory rebels, Sturgeon will hope that support for Scottish independence will increase,” said Charles Lichfield, an associate at the Eurasia Group, in a note to clients Tuesday.