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Court: Parliament must vote ahead of Brexit trigger

By Chris Peterson in London (China Daily) Updated: 2016-11-04 08:17

Pound rises sharply by 1 percent against the dollar and the euro after ruling

London's High Court ruled that the British Parliament has to approve the government's plans to exit the European Union before Prime Minister Theresa May can invoke Article 50, the formal process of leaving the EU.

The ruling, against which the government was given the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, threw May's plans to leave the EU into chaos.

A group led by financial consultant Gina Miller had sought a judicial review of the government's plans to invoke Article 50 in March without consulting Parliament.

May had said she planned to invoke Article 50 using an ancient power called the Royal Prerogative, but the judges ruled that Parliament is sovereign.

Liam Fox, the international trade minister, who is a leading campaigner for Britain to leave the EU, told the BBC: "The government is disappointed by the ruling. The country voted to leave in a referendum sanctioned by Parliament."

He said the London would consider carefully its next step.

The pound, which had slumped to its lowest level in 30 years after the referendum result, rose sharply by 1 percent against the dollar and the euro.

The government will exercise its right to appeal to the country's Supreme Court against Thursday's decision, according to an unidentified government spokesman.

The Supreme Court had previously indicated it would hear any appeal in the case quickly and aim to deliver its judgment before Christmas.

On June 23, Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU. Then-prime minister David Cameron resigned.

The country has been plunged into fresh debate ever since May, who had been a Remain backer, told the country that "Brexit means Brexit".

Miller said afterward: "This case was about parliamentary democracy and not about process, and the government should accept this ruling and give up its right to appeal to the Supreme Court."

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UKIP party whose main policy was to leave the EU, said he was disappointed.

Farage said: "I now fear every attempt will be made to block or delay triggering Article 50. They have no idea the level of public anger they will provoke."

In its ruling, the High Court said its decision was purely taken on constitutional grounds, without any political interpretation. "The most fundamental part of the constitution is that Parliament is sovereign, and can make or unmake any law it chooses," the ruling read.

If the vote ends up being taken in Parliament, there is a danger, as far as the government is concerned, that MPs could vote in favor of rejecting the government's plans to invoke Article 50, in effect electing to remain in the EU.

According to Bloomberg, 73 percent of the 650 members are in favor of remaining.

Lord Kerr, a Scottish peer who wrote Article 50 for the Lisbon Treaty governing departure from the EU, told the BBC that the process of leaving the EU was not irrevocable and the UK could elect to remain in the bloc even after exit negotiations had got under way after the formal process had started.

"They (the EU) might try to extract a political price but legally they couldn't insist that you leave," he said.

Bo Leung in London contributed to this story.

chris@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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