Britain's High Court rules that government must get parliamentary approval for Brexit
Great Britain's High Court – one of the most senior legal venues in the land – has ruled that the government of Prime Minister Teresa May must win a parliamentary vote in order to trigger Article 50 and start the process of exiting the EU. The government announced it would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court next month.
The court pointed out that "[t]he most fundamental rule of the UK's constitution is that parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses[.]"
The court chose to dismiss the government argument that a soveriegn parliament approved the referendum in the first place.
"The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. And the government is determined to respect the result of the referendum," it said.
In theory, parliament could block Brexit altogether. But few people expect that outcome, given that the British people voted by 52 to 48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum in June.
However, the ruling makes the already daunting task of taking Britain out of a club it joined 43 years ago even more complex. It also puts at risk May's own deadline of starting formal negotiations on the terms of Brexit by the end of March.
The High Court, made up of three of Britain's most senior judges, ruled that the government could not trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the formal step needed to start the process of exiting the bloc, without approval from parliament.
"The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government," Thomas said.
"For the reasons set out in the judgment, we decide that the government does not have power ... to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK to withdraw from the European Union."
Lawmakers largely voted to remain in the EU in the June referendum. Many investors believe greater parliamentary involvement in the process would therefore reduce the influence of ministers in May's government who are strongly pro-Brexit.
This end run around democracy could still end up handing the "Remain" faction a stunning reversal of fortune. The British establishment is 100% sold on the EU and felt embarrassed when ordinary Brits voted to leave. Now they have another bite at the apple and could either kill Brexit altogether or enormously complicate Prime Minister May's job in negotiating an exit.
How could the court logically arrive at a decision that, in effect, struck down one parliamentary vote authorizing a referendum while adding a condition for another vote? One explanation is that the fix was in and the Remain faction only needed this fig leaf of legal justification to put a road block in the way of Brexit.
The government probably won't have any better luck in their appeal to the Supreme Court. The best they can probably hope for is that the judges don't kill Brexit completely.