LONDON: In a major setback to British Prime Minister Theresa May, the High Court on Thursday ruled that the UK government must seek Parliament’s approval before officially starting the process to exit from the 28-member European Union.
The Press Trust of India (PTI) reports that three senior judges of the High Court in London ruled that Prime Minister May did not have the right to use her executive power to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.
“The government does not have power under the Crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK to withdraw from the European Union,” the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Thomas, ruled.
Calling the case “a pure question of law”, he said, “The court is not concerned with and does not express any view about the merits of leaving the European Union: that is a political issue.”
The judges ruled that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the European Union (EU).
This effectively means May cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin formal discussions with the EU without getting the approval of House of Commons MPs.
May had argued the public referendum in favour of Brexit on June 23 and ministerial powers mean MPs do not need to vote, but campaigners had argued this was unconstitutional.
The government said it would challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court, likely to take place on Dec 7, with speculation the case could end up at the European Court of Justice.
“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. We will appeal this judgement,” a government spokesperson said.
Describing the decision as disappointing, international trade minister Liam Fox told the House of Commons: “There will be numerous opportunities for the House to examine and discuss what the government is negotiating.
“When we are clear about the position we will adopt, then Article 50 will be triggered but, given the nature of the judgement this morning, we will now have to await the government’s appeal to the Supreme Court.”
The challenge had been brought by a group of businesses led by investment manager Gina Miller, whose lawyers argued that the government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty unilaterally despite a public referendum in favour of leaving the European Union (EU).
Ministers had argued they can act under ancient powers of Royal Prerogative, the preserve of monarchies. – Bernama