Thursday

25th May 2017

High Court ruling casts doubt on Brexit deadline

  • British PM Theresa May with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels last month.

Theresa May will likely tell European leaders on Friday (4 November) that Brexit talks won’t be delayed by a legal challenge giving more powers to Britain’s parliament.

May will speak to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the day after the UK's High Court ruled on Thursday that the government cannot launch exit talks without parliament's approval.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Downing Street indicated May would also speak to European Council president Donald Tusk and several heads of the 27 EU member states.

A spokeswoman said on Thursday that May remained determined to invoke article 50 of the EU treaty, which would formally launch Brexit negotiations, in March 2017.

”The timetable she set out at the European Council is the timetable that we are sticking to. This judgment is not going to derail that,” the spokeswoman said.

The ruling came as a blow to the government, which claimed to have a ”royal prerogative” to give effect ”to the will of the people".

The judges dismissed this argument as contrary to “fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament”. Only an elected assembly could take away the acquired rights of individuals - as would be the case when Britain leaves the EU.

The government immediately appealed their verdict.

The UK Supreme Court could start examining the case on 7 December, in a four-day hearing, and deliver a ruling before Christmas.

The case will likely be examined together with another appeal of a ruling, delivered by a Belfast high court last week, which said the government can launch Brexit negotiations on its own.

Way forward

UK Brexit minister David Davis said on Thursday that if the government failed to secure unique negotiating powers in the supreme court, the parliament probably had to be involved.

"We’re presuming it requires an act of parliament,” he told reporters.

That process could derail May’s timeline, even it is not clear at this stage whether the parliament would have to pass a bill, or whether both houses needed to say ”yes” or ”no” to the government’s proposal.

In the event of a vote, most MPs would probably back the start of negotiations out of respect for June’s referendum. The vote could happen quickly, even before the March deadline.

”But I don’t think this is a likely scenario,” Steve Peers, professor in the School of Law at the University of Essex told this website.

”The people that brought the case would go back to the court and say that a yes-or-no vote isn’t sufficient in this case. The government would take a huge political risk if it tried to do things this way,” Peers said, adding that this would only delay the process further.

On the other hand, a whole bill would - and should - be a complex matter.

”The parliament would take the opportunity to discuss a broad range of issues: EU-UK relations, conditions on the government for accountability in Brexit negotiations, the rights of Scotland and Northern Ireland,” Peers said.

He said there could be yet another delay to Brexit - if the supreme court was to suspend proceedings and ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify whether a notification to leave the EU under article 50 can be revoked once it is given.

”This is relevant, because at the heart of the UK case is a dispute about the ’royal prerogative’, ie the underlying powers of the UK executive,” Peers said.

”If article 50 is revokable, the parliament doesn’t have to be involved in the triggering of article 50,” Peers said, as Westminster would have the power to revoke the government’s negotiating mandate. That would also open the way for a second referendum, on the exit terms.

The ECJ usually takes about 16 months to deliver a ruling, although it could fast-track a case such as Brexit.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Maintaining the Brexit balancing act

The economic ceiling has not fallen in on the UK, so Brexit voters have little reason for buyer’s remorse so far.

May extends Brexit olive branch

The British PM is to launch new Brexit talks with Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, as nerves fray, also among banks, at the prospect of a "hard" EU exit.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Article 50 ruling changes nothing

Theresa May’s legal defeat over triggering EU exit talks is a self-inflicted headache, but with the deck still stacked in her favour and 17 million voting to leave, Brexit seems a sure thing.

May warns parliament not to block Brexit

After the HIgh Court ruled that Parliament needs to agree to triggering the exit talks, the British PM vowed not to let Brexit to be "sabotaged".

EU wants Brexit talks to start the day after UK vote

EU negotiator Michel Barnier urged negotiations to begin as soon as possible, while European Council chief Donald Tusk said the EU-27's red lines will be updated once talks can move on from the divorce to the future relationship.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Tories on manoeuvres, as Labour wakes from Brexit slumber

In Labour's programme for the June election, Jeremy Corbyn claims there will be no second EU referendum and promises a form of associate membership with the EU. For the moment, it’s as far as his party can go.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. EU to Trump: Defend Western values, not your interests
  2. Nato to join Trump's anti-IS coalition
  3. Trump expected to make Nato pledge
  4. Car-sharing's promise of clean cities
  5. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  6. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  7. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  8. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not