Despite the clear preference of the majority of the British population to withdraw from the European Union, a High Court has ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the authority to begin exit procedures. According to the three judges who issued the ruling, the government must wait until Parliament votes on the matter and grants the minister permission to initiate the transition to independence:
“What exactly does the ruling say?
Theresa May wanted to use ancient ‘royal prerogative’ to invoke Article 50 – the mechanism under EU law that starts the two-year process of Brexit.
Judges said she couldn’t do that without consulting Parliament first.
Lord Thomas said: ‘This is a pure question of law. The court is not concerned with and does not express any view about the merits of leaving the European Union. That is a political issue.’
Lord Thomas added: ‘The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government. There is nothing in the text of the 1972 [European Communities] Act to support it.
“The court expressly accepts the principle arguments of the claimants. The government does not have the power under the crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 .’
Will this stop us leaving the EU?
The ruling was only about the right of Parliament to have a say on the timing.
Downing Street says Theresa May still plans to trigger Article 50 before the end of March next year.
But Parliament could later tweak the terms of the pre-Brexit negotiation or even try to block Mrs May from invoking Article 50.
More on this in a minute.
Is this the end of the legal fight?
The Government is appealing the decision in the Supreme Court, which could reverse the judgement.
It got special permission to skip out the normal step of going to the Court of Appeal first.
That means we’re likely to have a final say in the next few weeks, rather than waiting for months on end.
When will Parliament get a vote, and how?
If today’s decision stands, Parliament should get a vote before Theresa May invokes Article 50 .
She wanted to invoke it by the end of March 2017, so it should be before then.
But of course a Parliamentary process could throw the whole timetable off.
It was thought a vote would be held on a substantive motion by the government, asking MPs to back the core principles of its negotiating strategy.
That would have mostly been a simple ‘yes or no’.
But now Brexit Secretary David Davis believes it would involve a full Act of Parliament.
That is a far bigger deal. It would involve several stages, committees, amendments, and far more chances for MPs to tweak the detail before Article 50 is invoked.
It could end up ‘ping ponging’ between the House of Commons and the House of Lords – where Remain-backing Labour and Lib Dems together outnumber the Tories.
In other words, MPs and peers could ‘micro-manage’ exactly what Brexit will look like.”