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Supreme Court debates if PM May can use a regal prerogative to implement Brexit

Wednesday, December 7th 2016 - 11:57 UTC
Full article 9 comments
The most constitutionally significant case for Britain in decades, will determine whether May can use a prerogative once reserved for kings to invoke Article 50 The most constitutionally significant case for Britain in decades, will determine whether May can use a prerogative once reserved for kings to invoke Article 50
Attorney general, Jeremy Wright, argued before the 11-judge panel that the power is “not an ancient relic” but “a fundamental pillar of our constitutional state.” Attorney general, Jeremy Wright, argued before the 11-judge panel that the power is “not an ancient relic” but “a fundamental pillar of our constitutional state.”
The High Court for England and Wales last month said Britain's “parliamentary sovereignty” tradition dictated lawmakers must be given the final say in any exit. The High Court for England and Wales last month said Britain's “parliamentary sovereignty” tradition dictated lawmakers must be given the final say in any exit.

Four day debate Five months after United Kingdom's referendum to abandon the European Union, the question of who actually gets to pull the trigger on Brexit remains a muddle. Prime Minister Theresa May says she does. A high-level British court argued otherwise last month, ruling that Parliament must have a say. Now it’s up to the U.K. Supreme Court, which this week began hearing arguments in a case that could complicate May’s plan to set in motion Britain’s exit by the end of March.

 The case, one of the most constitutionally significant for Britain in decades, will determine whether May and her government can use a prerogative once reserved for kings and queens to invoke Article 50, the never-before-used mechanism for getting out of the E.U.

Her attorney general, Jeremy Wright, argued before an 11-judge panel that the power is “not an ancient relic” but instead “a fundamental pillar of our constitutional state.” The June referendum, Wright said, was conducted “with the universal expectation that the government would implement the result.”

Complicating that argument, however, is the fact that the referendum was not legally binding. The High Court for England and Wales said last month that Britain’s tradition of “parliamentary sovereignty” dictated that the nation’s lawmakers must be given the final say in any exit.

The outcome of the case, which will be argued through Thursday, with a decision expected next month, could have significant ramifications for May’s E.U. departure plans.

Unlike the public, which voted 52% to 48% in favor of getting out of the E.U., most members of Parliament prefer staying in the bloc.

Pro-E.U. lawmakers have been careful to insist that they have no plans to overturn the public’s will. But even so, a Supreme Court decision to place Brexit decision-making in Parliament’s hands could open the door to protracted negotiations even before Britain begins its two-year divorce proceedings with the E.U.

Shami Chakrabarti, legal affairs spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, told the BBC that Brexit “will happen, pursuant to the will of the people.” But she added that the party intends to use parliamentary debate to shape the final package.

“There is not a simple question of in and out of the European Union,” she said. “There are many questions that Parliament has to scrutinize about what happens next.”

A spokeswoman for May told journalists that opposition parties are trying to “frustrate the will of the British people by slowing down the process of leaving and trying to tie the hands of the government negotiation.”

The court case has reignited passions that have barely cooled since the June vote. After last month’s High Court ruling, British backers of EU membership celebrated while Brexit advocates condemned the judgment.

“Enemies of the People” read the banner headline on the front page of the pro-Brexit Daily Mail. Above those words were photos of the three judges.

Categories: Economy, Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • ElaineB

    There has been a lot of hysterical reporting about this. It is good to debate the law around this and have a ruling as it will stop future frivolous law-suits. If it isn't done now the legality or not will cast a shadow over all negotiations.

    Dec 07th, 2016 - 12:16 pm +2
  • Voice

    What are the odds on her losing..?
    I and my Government is more powerful than Parliament...
    Not good I would say...

    Dec 08th, 2016 - 02:56 pm +1
  • Fidel_CasTroll

    Hahahaha, hillarious.

    The British Parliament and Prime Minister discussing how to execute Brexit and how the “final package” should be in protracted negotiations is one of the funniest stories in a long time.

    This is like 3 little siblings having “protracted negotiations” with each other over the summer holidays over the terms of attending school in the upcoming school year. What time they want to wake up in the morning, how many days a week to go to schoool, which classes to attend and which to skip, what to have for breakfast, which books they want to read, how they want to dress.

    ... And after all that, on the first day of school, the parents come over to their room “get up!”, “put your uniform on”, “eat your oatmeal!”, “hurry up!”, and then in class the teachers are like “if you skip class you will stand on the principal's office for two hours”, “you must read the following books, no choice!”, “do this, do that!”.

    That's exactly what the UK will face after all their “negotiations” with themselves, and when they finally on THEIR first day of school face the reality of meeting the people who really run the show:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/06/europe/eu-brexit-negotiations-michel-barnier/index.html

    When will the Brits get it, there is nothing to negotiate, no final package, no “a la carte”, no demands on what to wear, eat, or read. You are the 3 siblings.

    Dec 07th, 2016 - 11:54 pm 0
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