04 Nov

Brexit: High Court rules that Government requires parliamentary approval to leave European Union

By Europe correspondent Lisa Millar, ABC News

4 November 2016

The British High Court has thrown the Brexit process into further chaos after ruling that the Government will require parliamentary approval to trigger the process of exiting the European Union, complicating Prime Minister Theresa May's plans.

Key points:

  • The UK High Court says Parliament "can make and unmake any law it chooses"
  • May's government disappointed with judgment
  • In theory, parliament can now block Brexit
  • The historic case was brought forward by a businesswoman and a hairdresser

The court ruled against the British Government, which had argued it had the right to implement Article 50 and begin the Brexit process as planned before the end of March.

"The most fundamental rule of the UK's constitution is that parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses," Lord Chief Justice John Thomas said, reading out the ruling.

Mrs May's Government said in a statement it was disappointed by the court's judgement.

"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.

The Government said it would appeal against the decision and Britain's Supreme Court has set aside December 5 to 8 to deal with the matter.

In theory, parliament could block Brexit altogether, but few people expect that outcome, given that the British people voted by 52 to 48 per cent 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 Mrs May's own deadline of starting formal negotiations on the terms of Brexit.

Ruling underlines 'chaos and confusion' in UK Government

After the High Court ruling, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for greater transparency on the terms of Brexit.

"Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit," he said.

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the "hugely significant" ruling underlined the "chaos" and "confusion" at the heart of the British Government's push to leave.

"We should remember that their refusal to allow a vote in the House of Commons is not because of some matter of high constitutional principle, it is because they don't have a coherent position and they know that if they take their case to the (chamber) that will be exposed," she said.

The historic case was brought by an entrepreneur and a hairdresser who argued that the Government alone did not have the power to trigger the Brexit process.

"The result today is about all of us, it's not about me or my team ... it's about our United Kingdom and all our futures," entrepreneur Gina Miller, one of the claimants, said.

MPs largely voted to remain in the EU in the June referendum.

Nigel Farage, head of the anti-EU party UKIP, said on Twitter that he feared the ruling could turn into an attempt to scupper Brexit altogether.

"I worry that a betrayal may be near at hand," he said.

"I now fear every attempt will be made to block or delay triggering Article 50. They have no idea (of the) level of public anger they will provoke."

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Posted in General by Claire Emery

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