House of Parliament

A general view shows the House of Lords chamber in session at the Houses of Parliament in London.



The British government’s plans to trigger Article 50 before March 2017, which would inaugurate the process of the country exiting the European Union (EU), have been dealt a blow after losing a High Court challenge to the Brexit process.

Today’s ruling by Lord Chief Justice John Thomas, the most senior judge in the U.K., determined that the government could not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without the prior consent of Parliament. British Prime Minister Theresa May says that the June 23 EU referendum, and existing ministerial powers, meant that MPs do not need to vote on the decision to begin Brexit and plans to appeal the decision.

The court’s decision followed a legal challenge from the so-called ‘People’s Challenge Group,’ headed by investment manager Gina Miller and represented by law firms Mishcon de Reya, Edwin Coe and Bindmans, who successfully argued that the government’s stance was unconstitutional.

Speaking outside the High Court following the ruling, Miller said the case was “about process, not politics.”

"The result today is about all of us. It's not about me or my team. It's about our United Kingdom and all our futures," she stated.  

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister confirmed that the government would appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court and claimed that the ruling would not derail its plans to trigger Article 50 before the end of March.

“The prime minister is clear and determined that this government will deliver on the decision of the British people and take us out of the EU,” said a statement from 10 Downing. “We are determined to continue with our plan, preparing for negotiations, and sticking to the timetable we set out,” it went on to say.

An appeal hearing has been scheduled for early December. If the government loses that appeal, it does not stop Brexit from happening, but it does put an unwelcome obstacle in the government’s path and could result in lengthy delays to the already complex process of the United Kingdom exiting the EU. An unsuccessful appeal would also increase the chances of the Prime Minister calling an early election.  

As previously reported, Brexit carries potentially huge ramifications for the music business, potentially impacting everything from touring to the cost of CD manufacture and distribution. The live industry is likely to be where Brexit is felt the hardest, with the requirement for U.K. acts to carry separate working visas for each EU country they wish to visit, resulting in extra administration and cost burdens, a distinct possibility. 

There are also serious implications for copyright law, with the EU's eagerly-anticipated copyright reforms, including September’s draft proposals to make user-generated services like YouTube pay more to rights holders and better police infringement, only applicable to EU member states. In a post-Brexit world, British artists and rights holders would not be bound by any legislation introduced by the European Parliament, although there is nothing to stop the U.K. government from reforming its own copyright regulations.

Restrictions on immigration numbers could also impact on staffing at British music companies, while the large numbers of U.K. labels who press their records in European countries could see manufacturing and distribution costs rise as the result of import taxes. That would, in turn, have a knock-on effect for U.S. labels and cut into their profit margins on physical product sold in the U.K.