Brexit requires parliamentary approval, Britain’s high court rules

In a major ruling that could undo the June 23 Brexit vote, the high court on Thursday ruled that the Theresa May government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU without a vote in parliament authorizing it to do so.
No easy walkout: Britain's Prime minister Theresa May and others perceived the cases as a ploy to frustrate the referendum outcome to leave the EU. After Thursday’s ruling, her government is likely to approach the Supreme Court.(AFP File)
No easy walkout: Britain's Prime minister Theresa May and others perceived the cases as a ploy to frustrate the referendum outcome to leave the EU. After Thursday’s ruling, her government is likely to approach the Supreme Court.(AFP File)
Updated on Nov 03, 2016 06:28 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | By, London

The fractious process of Britain leaving the European Union was thrown into further turmoil on Thursday after the high court ruled that the Theresa May government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without a vote in parliament authorising it to do so.

The verdict brought cheer to many who voted in the June 23 referendum to remain in the EU, but also relief to some who voted to leave but later realised the scale of implications of their vote, mostly on the economic front.

The pound, which has been under pressure since the Brexit vote, jumped after the ruling.

Read | In leaked tape, Britain’s May warned of Brexit damage

International Trade secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons the government was disappointed.

The government is to appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court.

Many, including political parties, appeared shocked by the verdict and its multiple implications.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the process for any member-state to leave the EU. It has never been used so far, but Prime Minister May has announced it would be set in motion by the end of March 2017, prospects of which was put in some doubt after the high court ruling.

Read | Still here? EU reality dims British demand on full membership

It is known that a majority of the MPs and lords are in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, but it was not clear whether parliament would now need to pass legislation authorising the government to trigger Article 50, or vote on a motion on the issue.

It was the May government’s case that Article 50 could be triggered by an executive action without referring it to parliament. This was opposed by entrepreneurs and others who brought two legal cases, insisting the government could not ignore parliament.

May and others perceived the cases as a ploy to frustrate the referendum outcome to leave the EU. The court ruling opens the possibility that parliament may not completely reject the Brexit vote, but opt for a ‘soft Brexit’ that retains some access to the European single market.

The high court ruled that parliament alone has the power to trigger Brexit: “In the judgment of the Court the (government’s) argument is contrary…to the fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of Parliament.”

The challengers maintained that parliamentary approval and legislation was required for such a fundamental change that would deprive millions of UK citizens of their legal rights. If ministers alone triggered Brexit, they would be undermining the sovereignty of parliament, it was argued.

Nigel Farage, interim leader of UKIP and who was partly responsible for the referendum being held, said: “We are heading for a half Brexit. I’m becoming increasingly worried. I see MPs from all parties saying, oh well, actually we should stay part of the single market, we should continue with our daily financial contributions. I think we could be at the beginning, with this ruling, of a process where there is deliberate, wilful attempt by our political class to betray 17.4 million voters.”

He added: “If come spring of 2019 we haven’t left the EU, then I would have to take up full-time campaigning again.”  

Fiona de Londras, professor of Global Legal Studies at Birmingham Law School and told HT: “(The verdict) will give parliament the capacity to delay the commencement of the formal withdrawal process so that complex questions of domestic legal and political importance—like the status of Northern Ireland and Scotland, or the border with the Republic of Ireland—might be closer to resolution before the two-year clock (under Article 50) for withdrawal starts to tick.”

“Strictly speaking, parliament could veto triggering Article 50 and withdrawal from the EU as well, and the SNP and Northern Irish MPs will hold considerable power in the process,” said the expert of constitutional and European law.

“All in all, today’s decision makes what was already a complex process even more complicated, and firmly reinstates parliament as an important actor in the Brexit process.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The 75th Cannes Film Festival - Opening ceremony and screening of the film "Coupez" where Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is seen on a screen as he delivers a video address. 

    At Cannes Film Festival, Zelensky gets standing ovation for video address

    The 75th Cannes Film Festival kicked off Tuesday with an eye turned to Russia's war in Ukraine and a live satellite video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called on a new generation of filmmakers to confront dictators as Charlie Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler. After tributes and musical numbers, Zelenskyy was streamed live for the formally attired audience who had gathered for the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius' zombie comedy “Final Cut."

  • Workers conduct search for the black box near the debris at the China Eastern flight crash site in Tengxian County in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on March 24, 2022. (AP)

    Chinese passenger jet may have been deliberately brought down: Report

    A Chinese airliner that crashed on March 21 killing all 132 people on board may have been flown deliberately into a nosedive in its final moments, a news report said on Tuesday, citing preliminary findings by American officials who analysed data from the flight's black box. It was travelling from Kunming in Yunnan province to Guangzhou on China's southeastern coast when it crashed outside the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi region.

  • Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (R) and Finland's President Sauli Niinisto (L) hold a joint news conference in Stockholm, Sweden May 17, 2022. (TT News Agency/Anders Wiklund via REUTERS)

    Sweden, Finland to jointly submit applications to become NATO members Wednesday

    Sweden and Finland have remained non-aligned throughout the entire Cold War period, and have in the past opposed the prospect of becoming NATO members. However, both Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson have cited security as the reason behind their NATO aspirations. This comes in the backdrop of the Ukraine war that began after Russia invaded the east-European country on Putin's order on February 24. Currently in its third month, the war is the biggest of its kind in an European nation since the Second World War and has created a renewed refugee influx in the continent.

  • A search and rescue worker holds the second orange-coloured ‘black box’ recorder recovered from the China Eastern flight crash site in Tengxian County, in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (AP)

    China Eastern plane crash data suggest intentional nosedive: Report

    The black box for a China Eastern Airlines Corp. jet that crashed earlier this year suggests the Boeing Co. plane took an intentional nosedive, the Wall Street Journal said. The Boeing 737-800 jetliner was en route from Kunming to Guangzhou on March 21 when it plummeted from the sky, killing all 132 passengers and crew. Boeing shares added to their gains for the day, climbing as much as 6.2% in New York.

  • Children aged 5-11 have been eligible to receive the initial two doses of Pfizer's vaccine since November 2021, but less than 30 per cent of them have so far. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight/File Photo)

    US authorises Covid booster shots for children aged 5 to 11

    There are 28 million children who fall into the 5-11 age range in the United States, and there have been 4.8 million Covid cases and about 360 deaths among them so far, according to CDC figures. This age group has been eligible to receive the initial two doses of Pfizer's vaccine since November 2021, but less than 30 per cent of them have so far.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 18, 2022