What the major new Brexit ruling means, and why it matters

The high court has made a major new ruling that will affect the course of Britain's exit from the EU

A major ruling by the high court has just determined that Article 50 – which states that any member of the EU can leave in accordance with its own constitutional requirements  – cannot be implemented without a vote from parliament.

Pro-Brexit campaigners had hoped that Britain’s vote to leave the EU on 23rd June could be implemented by Theresa May without a parliamentary vote. May had previously released a statement saying she hoped she could trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.

But anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has brought a case against this to the high court, who today ruled the government’s plan was ‘contrary  to fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament. The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government. There is nothing in the text of the 1972 Act to support it.’

So what does this all mean? The wheels of Brexit cannot be put into motion without a vote from parliament. The government will only be able trigger Article 50 after MPs have voted in favour of it – and they might not.

Theresa May will now take her case to the Supreme Court, who will be expected to rule either way on the matter in the next three weeks.

On 24th June, we wrote

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has thrown the country into economic and political unrest. Since the Leave campaign’s narrow victory last Thursday – with 52% voting for a Brexit against 48% voting to stay in the EU – Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation, twelve members of the Labour shadow cabinet have resigned and the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has announced a £250bn injection of funds to restore the plummeting value of the pound.

As Harry Potter author J.K Rowling put it on Friday, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever wanted magic more.’

As expected, Britain’s decision to exit the EU was in the main a generational one, with a YouGov poll indicating that 75% of 18-24 year olds voted to remain, while 61% of people over the age of 65 voted to leave.

So whether you spent the weekend celebrating the news with a glass of English sparkling wine or are currently hunkering down stockpiling cans of baked beans in preparation for the apocalypse, here’s a run-down of what is likely to happen next.

So, do we leave straight away?

No – it will likely take two years, possibly longer. To begin the formal extraction process, Britain must trigger Article 50 of the Treaty Of the European Union, which lets a member state notify the European Council of its withdrawal. After Article 50 has been triggered the UK will be excluded from all further EU decision-making and would not be allowed back in without a unanimous vote from other member states. After Article 50 has been triggered the UK must then negotiate an exit agreement. During this two year negotiation period, EU laws would still apply to the UK. If an exit agreement has not been reached after two years, negotiations can only continue with a unanimous vote from the 27 member states.

Is there any way it won’t happen?

Despite a majority vote for Brexit, the vote to leave the EU still has to go through parliament, which does not have a Leave majority. It is likely, given the vote was so close, that there will be strong opposition by pro-Remain MPs. Since Friday three million people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum, declaring that if the vote is under 60% in favour of leave and the turnout is under 75% then the result should be declared void. But is a second referendum actually likely to happen? Constitutional expert Professor Vernon Bogdanor told The Telegraph he thinks this is ‘highly unlikely’, adding ‘I don’t think the EU will wish to bargain any further, they will take this vote as final.’

How are the other EU members reacting to the vote?

The founding six member states (that’s France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Italy and Belgium) met on Saturday to discuss the impact of the British vote. Despite Leave campaigner Boris Johnson declaring there is no ‘real rush’ for Britain to exit the EU, the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has told the German media he would like Brexit proceedings ‘to get started immediately’ and that the suggested meeting point of October should be brought forward. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said there is no need for Britain to rush its exit from the EU.

Who will replace Cameron?

Since the PM announced his resignation, questions have been raised about who will follow him as Prime Minister in October. Boris Johnson has been mooted as a likely successor given his pro-Brexit stance, and is certainly the bookies’ favourite, but he could also face strong challenges from Remain campaigner Theresa May, who kept her nose relatively clean during the referendum build-up and has been touted as the best candidate to bring the chaotic Tory party into check. Insiders say Theresa is likely to announce her leadership bid within days.

Will Scotland and Ireland leave us now?

Our friends north of the border voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. And given Scotland’s very close independence referendum vote last year, politicians including Nicola Sturgeon have suggested that the Scots will now demand a second referendum to break free from the UK. Meanwhile, over in Ireland – which also showed a majority vote to remain – Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has called for a vote on Irish reunification.

How will the UK economy react to Brexit?

The economy is already reacting very badly to the news, with a 10% drop in the value of the pound on Friday, the lowest dip since 1985. Immediate economic uncertainty is a given (even Brexiteers have admitted that) though the long term effects are less certain. Some economists have suggested that the UK will stagnate and struggle outside a single market and we are likely to see the effects last for five years. The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has announced a plan to pump £250bn into the economy to help keep it afloat.

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