UK: Brexit is Purely Legal

3 Nov 2016

Today the UK’s High Court ruled that the government can not start the process of leaving the European Union without Parliament’s approval, giving hope for a second chance on Brexit.






Why is it happening?


David Cameron convened a referendum on Britain’s possible exit from the European Union for his own political gains - and lost it. However, the referendum result is not legally binding. Prime Minister Theresa May is now striving to give power to the voice of the people, and trigger Article 50, the legal mechanism for member states to withdraw from the EU, by the end of March 2017. The process is standing still so far, and today’s High Court ruling can derail the timetable.


The UK has not evoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, fundamental document of the EU stating that if a member state decides to withdraw from the Union, first it has to notify the European Council. Once the UK notifies the EU, negotiations on future relations can begin. If no agreement is reached in due course, EU Treaties cease to apply to the leaving member state 2 years after the initial notification.


What the High Court, the UK’s supreme court, did today is prohibiting the executive branch to act on its own in starting this process without the approval of Parliament. The government is appealing, so a further hearing is expected next month.  


Why does it matter?


Brexit is not a done deal yet. Parliament can not disregard the will of the people, even of such a scarce majority. Nevertheless, there is now hope that they can somehow mitigate the hazardous ramifications of a “clear cut Brexit”; although MPs are unlikely to undo Brexit as it is, for fear of general anger and unrest.


Parliament now is given a second chance to fix what has been broken by politics and the somewhat misused anger of the people. The UK’s constitutional traditions attribute sovereignty primarily to the Parliament, and not to the state itself, thus investing it with unique national power and respect.


What can you do about it?


The UK government should present the Parliament with concrete, palpable terms of agreement, and seek to renegotiate their position within the EU, instead of leaving the Union. This way the British people could be satisfied by a more beneficial role of the UK in Europe. And more importantly, the complete disengagement of the UK could be prevented, with all its unforeseeable local, regional, and global consequences on jobs, finance, investments, trade, currencies, travelling, education and so on.


The British public must push for a reconciliation with the EU to avoid a hardliner Brexit, and raise their voice for a more balanced solution. The legal side to Brexit might seem daunting, but as usually, the devil is in the detail. What happens between a final legal ruling and Article 50 is the art of politics, but the framework for political maneuver is always legal.


Image Credit: Global Voices Organization

Bogi Bozsogi briefs regularly from Budapest, Hungary. She is a candidate for a Master in Arts in International Relations with a focus on Security Studies.

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