thursday, 3 november of 2016

Brexit Legal Challenge Set for Court Ruling

The English court deciding on the main legal challenge to Brexit is set to rule Thursday, delivering a verdict that has the potential to stymie U.K. government plans to leave the European Union.

The complex case turns on the question of whether Prime Minister Theresa May can push the button on Brexit—by giving official notice to the EU—without first getting parliamentary signoff.

If the challenge succeeds, the government could be forced to quickly introduce legislation authorizing Mrs. May to trigger Article 50, the formal mechanism that begins a two-year window for exit negotiations. While such a vote would likely go in Mrs. May’s favor, lawmakers could influence her approach to Brexit and if a majority is opposed it could theoretically delay or even stop the process.

Mrs. May’s ruling Conservative Party is the largest party in Parliament, with a majority of 15 seats.

Both sides are expected to appeal if the decision goes against them, with the Supreme Court on standby to give an expedited hearing before a full bench of 11 judges early next month.

The case—brought by a group of British citizens with the help of some of the U.K.’s top constitutional lawyers—is a complication for Mrs. May, who has said she plans to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

Mrs. May has taken a hard line on the terms she would seek in talks, pledging to prioritize the right to curb immigration over access to the bloc’s tariff-free single market.

Some political experts have suggested that if the court case succeeds, pro-EU lawmakers will have an opportunity to steer the country toward a “softer” exit, with more ties to the bloc and a more open immigration policy.

The case, which combines at least seven private actions brought by individuals who supported Britain’s continued EU membership, underscores the complexities involved in the U.K.’s decision to leave the 28-member union, as it becomes the first member of the modern EU to do so.

The government says it has the right to leave because of the so-called royal prerogative, in which executive authority is given to ministers so they can govern on the monarch’s behalf. Lawyers representing the government also say Mrs. May has a responsibility to carry out the wishes of the people as expressed in the June vote to break away from the EU.

But the claimants argue that triggering Article 50 without parliamentary consent would effectively override a 1972 statute that enshrines European law in the U.K. and which the claimants say ensures rights that can only be removed by Parliament.

Spearheading the legal challenge are British businesswoman Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir Dos Santos. Grahame Pigney, a France-based expatriate who used crowdfunding from more than 4,000 people to pay for lawyers, has also joined the suit as a co-party. Lawyers representing the Scottish and Welsh government are also participating in the case as observers.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal - November 3, 2016)

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