London – Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Prime Minister Theresa May must seek approval from Parliament before formally triggering the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
May’s government insisted “nothing” would change the timetable for triggering Article 50 by the end of March and promised draft legislation “within days.”
David Davis, the minister overseeing Brexit, said the government would send legislation to Parliament within days. “There can be no going back,” Davis said.
“Parliament will rightly scrutinize and debate this legislation, but I trust no one will seek to make it a vehicle for attempts to thwart the will of the people or frustrate or delay the process of exiting the European Union,” Davis added.
Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged not to frustrate the Brexit process, but he said his party would seek to ensure Britain’s “full, tariff-free access to the single market” and prevent the government from turning the country “into a bargain basement tax haven off the coast of Europe.”
Delivering the court’s 8-3 decision upholding a High Court ruling, Lord David Neuberger said leaving the EU, a course approved by 52% of voters in a June referendum, also requires an act of Parliament.
“To proceed otherwise would be a breach of settled constitutional principles stretching back many centuries,” the court’s president said.
The court said May needs parliamentary consent because EU law is embedded into UK law and therefore can’t be revoked without lawmakers’ approval.
However, it also ruled that May didn’t need to consult with the regional governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50, weakening their influence over the process.
Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had argued that since Scotland voted to stay in the EU, it should not be taken out “against its will” and has warned it is “very likely” she will have to call a referendum on independence.
“Is it better that we take our future into our own hands? It is becoming ever clearer that this is a choice that Scotland must make,” she said.
For her part, the lead claimant in the Supreme Court case, investment fund manager Gina Miller, hailed the ruling as a victory for parliamentary democracy.
“No prime minister, no government can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged,” said Miller, who has been forced to hire bodyguards because of the death threats she has received since starting her case.