24th Mar 2018

MPs must vote on Brexit process, judges say

  • The government immediately pledged to appeal the High Court's verdict (Photo: Nick Garrod)

The UK government cannot trigger Britain's exit from the EU without a parliamentary vote, the British High Court has ruled.

”The most fundamental rule of the UK’s constitution is that the parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses,” the court said on Thursday (3 November).

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The verdict means MPs must agree before the UK triggers its EU divorce proceedings by invoking article 50 of the EU treaty.

The High Court also rejected the government’s claim that it was not competent to judge on the issue.

Whitehall immediately said it would appeal the ruling.

The Supreme Court is expected to hold a hearing on the case on 7 December, but if it is upheld, it could alter future EU-UK relations.

A majority of MPs in the past opposed Brexit.

It would be difficult for them, in political terms, to overturn the referendum result, but they might force the government to take a more EU-friendly approach in exit talks.

The British pound rose 1 percent on Thursday in anticipation of a softer Brexit.

Prime minister Theresa May had previously said that the referendum, in which 52 percent of people voted to leave the EU, gave her the authority to trigger article 50 when she saw fit.

She aimed to do it at the end of March next year.

She said she would hold parliamentary debates on her Brexit plan, but that MPs views would not be binding on her actions.

May, and members of her cabinet, had also indicated that they were willing to forsake access to the EU single market in order to curb immigration.

Two anti-Brexit campaigners - wealth manager Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir Dos Santos - initiated the High Court case.

“The result today is about all of us. We all voted for the best country and our future", Miller told press in London on Thursday.

She said greater parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit would “bring sobriety to the process".

UK trade minister Liam Fox said the government was "disappointed" by the ruling.

He said the government was "determined to respect the result" of the referendum in which the "country voted to leave” the European Union.

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'Decisive step' in Brexit ahead of EU summit

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