High Court rules Theresa May cannot start Brexit process without parliamentary vote

By @chelean on
Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (not shown) speak to journalists after their bilateral meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, November 2, 2016. Reuters/Kirsty Wigglesworth/pool

The United Kingdom’s Brexit plan has just been stalled by a British High Court. On Thursday, the court ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the power to trigger the Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on her own.

The court case was brought by an anti-Brexit group headed by London fund manager Gina Miller. The group argued that the individual members of the Cabinet cannot trigger Article 50, the clause in the EU constitution that would begin UK’s two-year exit. The High Court agreed, saying the May Government cannot do it alone without parliamentary approval.

It has, however, allowed the government to appeal the ruling. A lawyer for the government said the appeal has already been set from Dec. 5 to 8 by the Supreme Court.

“The result today is about all of us; it’s not about me or my team. It’s about our United Kingdom and all out futures. It’s not about how anyone voted, each of us voted to do what we believed was the right thing for our country,” Miller said outside the High Court in London following the ruling. “This case was about process, not politics.”

The ruling meant MPs will have to vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU, which was the whole point of the public referendum in June. May, who had backed a vote to remain in the EU before she took over the role of prime minister from David Cameron, has previously announced that her government intended to invoke Article 50. But with the High Court ruling saying she has no power to do so without parliamentary vote, the country’s plan to leave the EU could take even more time to begin.

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Should the Supreme Court uphold the High Court’s ruling, the government may take the case to the European Court of Justice, although it is still unclear at this point if it could. The May government could also just allow a parliamentary vote, and the MPs and peers could vote as their constituents have voted.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the process in which a member state may withdraw from the EU. Once it is triggered, the exiting member has two years to complete negotiations.

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