The decision today of the UK High Court that the government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin formal exit negotiations with the EU without approval of Parliament, is a setback for the UK prime minister Theresa May and increases the uncertainty regarding the Unitary Patent system.
May had argued the government could give the Article 50 notice on its own. She wanted to start the exit negotiations before the end of March next year. But the Court said Article 50 will fundamentally change UK people’s rights, and therefore the government can only invoke it if Parliament gives it authority to do so.
Athough in a reaction to the judgement the government announced it had no intention of letting it ‘derail Article 50 or the timetable we have set out’, a political analyst of the BBC said the decision has ‘huge implications, not just on the timing of Brexit but on the terms of Brexit. That’s because it’s given the initiative to those on the Remain side in the House of Commons who, it’s now likely, will argue Article 50 can only be triggered when Parliament is ready and that could mean when they’re happy with the terms of any future deal.’
Apart from many other issues, the ruling creates additional uncertainty for the Unitary Patent system. If upheld in appeal by the Supreme Court, it is likely to lead to a further delay of the decision the UK faces as to staying in the UP system, or leaving it. As the UK is one of the mandatory signatories of the UPC Agreement, the new European patent system cannot enter into force until either the UK ratifies, or another solution is agreed on by all member states.
The Supreme Court will hear the appeal next month. Its judgment is expected by the end of January 2017.
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