Following an advisory referendum held in June 2016 in which 52% of votes were cast in favour of leaving the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. His successor, Theresa May, announced the government’s intention to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union, the formal procedure for withdrawing, by the end of March 2017.
A case challenging the Prime Minister’s position was brought to the British High Court by a group of 4,000 concerned citizens. The claimants, lead by Miller and Santos, founded their case on the premise that only Parliament can make the decision to trigger Article 50, which states “any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” The case argued that because the European Communities Act of 1972, which gave effect to EU laws within the UK constitution, was first passed by Parliament, hence the decision to remove the EU laws from the UK must be made by the same governing body.
The British High Court issued its decision yesterday, and found against the government, ruling that the Prime Minister does not have the power to start the UK’s exit from the European Union, but must first have parliamentary approval.
The resulting concern is that Parliament may not approve to invoke Article 50, or they may set conditions to exiting the EU. The majority of MPs in the June 2016 referendum indicated support for remaining in the EU.
The government has announced it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, with hearings set for December 7 and 8. If the High Court’s decision stands after the Prime Minister’s appeal, the requirement for Parliamentary approval may push the date for invoking Article 50 until late 2017.