High Court Ruling Delivers Blow to Britain’s Plans for ‘Brexit’

By Paul Riegler on 4 November 2016
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DSC_0320Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, approved by a referendum in June 2016, will be a much slower process after Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice ruled that Parliament must give its approval before the process can begin.

The High Court decision will likely slow – but not halt – the Brexit process as Prime Minister Theresa May must now go through the process of seeking Parliament’s approval before invoking Article 50, thereby allowing negotiations for leaving the European Union to begin.

The government had argued that the so-called royal prerogative, which it asserts bestows executive authority to ministers in order to govern on behalf of the monarch, gives it the right to trigger Brexit.

The court flatly rejected that position.

“The most fundamental rule of the U.K.’s constitution is that Parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses,” said Roger Thomas, the chief judge.

Mrs. May, who has insisted on the right to unilaterally invoke Article 50, is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case in December. If the appeal is unsuccessful, Parliament will have to vote on whether Britain will remain or leave. While most lawmakers in Britain oppose Brexit, the prevailing opinion is that it would be politically unwise to overturn it.

A more likely outcome is the weakening of Mrs. May’s negotiating stance with the European Union on the terms of withdrawal. The decision also offers the possibility of steering the country towards a “soft” exit that would maintain strong ties to the bloc as well as a more open immigration policy. A hard Brexit would see the country split from the EU single market and customs union and face tariffs when trading with the bloc. A soft exit would put the United Kingdom in a similar position to Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, with membership in the European Economic Area, granting it substantial access to the bloc.

A third possibility lies between hard and soft exits along the lines of the treaty concluded with Canada the past week.

The Canadian agreement “will remove customs duties, end restrictions on access to public contracts, open-up the services market, offer predictable conditions for investors and help prevent illegal copying of EU innovations and traditional products,” according to a statement by the Canadian government.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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