Britain’s High Court has ruled that Parliament must vote on British withdrawal from the European Union, which will hinder the government’s plans moving forward. The withdrawal was approved by 52 percent of voters in a June referendum, and Prime Minster Theresa May has planned to begin the legal steps for making it a reality by the of March next year. The government said it would appeal the court’s decision, which, if upheld, would bring these plans at least temporarily to a halt.
Mrs. May has expressed her intention to avoid having to work with Parliament, and will now have to present a detailed strategy for negotiating the withdrawal. She has argued that being required to work with Parliament, with their wide range of political priorities, would limit her flexibility to negotiate the best possible deal for Britain’s exit.
Most analysts do not believe Parliament will entirely stand in the way of Britain’s withdrawal, with most lawmakers having pledged to uphold the results of the referendum. However, the ruling will weaken the prime minister’s grip on the negotiation process. Mrs. May has prioritized tightening Britain’s borders and enforcing stricter immigration policies, even if that necessitates a “hard Brexit” – in which Britain withdraws from the EU’s single market. The new ruling could force a compromise on this point, the prospect of which helped to raise the pound on Thursday, after weeks of falling to its lowest value in decades.
Many other questions were left unanswered following the court’s ruling, with the Conservative government already divided over Britain’s relationship with the EU. By and large, members of Parliament were not in favor of the Brexit referendum to begin with. Theresa May’s Conservative government had hoped to avoid significant Parliamentary debate, particularly in the House of Lords, where there is no clear Conservative majority.
Nigel Farage, a Brexit leader who resigned his leadership of the U.K. Independence Party after June’s referendum, expressed fears that political leaders were steering towards a “half Brexit,” promising to return to politics if Britain had not left the European Union by 2019.
Speaking to BBC Radio, he said:
“I see M.P.s from all parties saying, ‘Oh well, actually we should stay part of the single market; we should continue with our daily financial contributions,’ I think we could be at the beginning, with this ruling, of a process where there is a deliberate, willful attempt by our political class to betray 17.4 million voters.”
For the moment, the government has stood by its Brexit timetable, saying that an expedited appeal would be heard by the Supreme Court in December.