High Court Blocks Theresa May From Bypassing Parliament on Brexit
By Abby Shamray
Editor in Chief
After months of uncertainty and volatility in the markets surrounding the Brexit vote, a ruling by the High Court in early November added another obstacle to the British government’s plan to withdraw from the European Union. The High Court declared that Parliament must give its approval of Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan before the process can begin.
While the court decision will not completely halt Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, it will slowdown May’s timeline a significant amount, as reported by The New York Times. May had planned to take the first legal steps in leaving the EU by the end of March and proceed with private negotiations.
The British government said it will appeal the High Court’s decision, taking the case to the Supreme Court in early December. The leader of the legal challenge against the British government is expected to be Scotland’s government, according to Reuters.
“The Scottish government has a representative observing proceedings throughout this case and we are currently considering whether we should now seek to become participants in the appeal process,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote in the Observer.
A majority of voters in Scotland were against Brexit, in contrast to a majority of voters in England and Wales. Sturgeon has stated that any decision they make moving forward will be oriented toward making sure the British government respects all the voters of the UK.
The ruling of the High Court has also resulted in political stirring surrounding the prospect of another election. According to the Wall Street Journal, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has said that he plans to pressure May to retain some kind of access to the EU’s single market. If she failed to concede to the Labour Party’s demands, he would pressure her to hold another election in the spring.
In response, May has remained firm in her plan. In an op-ed in the Telegraph, she wrote, “The people made their choice, and did so decisively. It is the responsibility of the government to get on with the job and to carry out their instruction in full.” Additionally, the Conservative party has called the effort of the High Court an attempt to obscure the will of the people.
May is guided by a “royal prerogative” rather than a Constitution, so the case in the High Court has also raised questions about whether or not the “unwritten constitution” of Britain is enough to allow May to start Brexit talks following the referendum vote without consulting Parliament. Jeff King, a professor of law at the University College, London, told The New York Times, “Rarely has the legality of the execution of prerogative power has such political significance.” The outcome of the case in the Supreme Court may change Britain’s government processes into the future.
The European Union has also started to struggle with the uncertainty of Brexit, according to The New York Times. With multiple countries facing elections early next year and a plethora of problems, from slow economic growth to a resurgence of the refugee crisis to a growing nationalist, populist, and far-left movements, the EU has started to see the floundering Brexit as a liability to being able to solve the rest of its issues.