A court ruling in London that Parliament must approve before the Brexit can happen raised hopes among those opposing the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. This ruling discounted arguments by lawyers representing current Prime Minister Theresa May who argued she did not need legal approval to invoke Article 50, the formal process for leaving Europe. News of the decision lifted the pound sterling to its highest level in three weeks, reflecting renewed market belief that the UK might not exit Europe after all. However, such new found optimism might be overstated.
Britain’s main political parties, the ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party, were internally divided during the referendum campaign. Following the referendum, Theresa May, who supported the “remain” side, now defends Brexit, and so does Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Such a change of tone has drawn debate mainly towards what a UK departure from the EU would look like, although there remain hopes that such a pullout will not happen.
In her first comments on the ruling, Mrs May said: “This may appear to be a debate about process, and the legal argument is complex, but in reality there is an important principle at stake” and that”Parliament voted to put the decision about our membership of the EU in the hands of the British people. The people made their choice, and did so decisively..It is the responsibility of the government to get on with the job and to carry out their instruction in full.”
This is not a minor evolution. While most British lawmakers have come to terms with the fact that voters demanded to leave the European Union, the referendum said nothing about terms of withdrawal. This has led to increased complications in the exit, as lawmakers will want Parliament to be involved in the negotiation process. This could delay May’s goal of starting proceedings by March 2017, with increased amendments and conditionalities to the terms of exit looking increasingly likely.
A recent Stratfor report has also noted that the EU would remain an important point of contact with the UK, as pressing social and economic issues which drew the referendum to take place – immigration for example – have to be discussed with the EU.
Ironically, regaining the full sovereignty of Parliament , which was a claim made by the “leave” camp during the referendum campaign, does not look likely to happen. The supreme court’s ruling would only serve to add another layer of complexity to the process. The messy nature of Brexit would only ensure that underlying economic and social issues will not be tended to in the short term, whilst bringing the UK into a future unknown, for better or worse.
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