The British Government Just Lost a Key Brexit Case

Court decides Parliament has to vote on EU exit
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 24, 2017 4:41 AM CST
Updated Jan 24, 2017 5:21 AM CST
British Government Loses Key Brexit Case
Painter Kaya Mar shows his latest painting of British Prime Minister Theresa May in front of the Supreme Court in London, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017.   (Frank Augstein)

Britain's government must get parliamentary approval before starting the process of leaving the European Union, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, potentially delaying Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to trigger negotiations by the end of March. The ruling forces the government to put a bill before Parliament, giving pro-EU politicians a chance to soften the terms of Brexit. "Leave" campaigners had objected, saying Parliament shouldn't have the power to overrule the electorate, which voted to leave the bloc in a June 23 referendum, the AP reports. May had said she would use centuries-old powers known as royal prerogative to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty and launch two years of exit talks.

The case was considered the most important constitutional issue in a generation, clarifying who ultimately wields power in Britain's system of government: the prime minister and her Cabinet, or Parliament. "The referendum is of great political significance, but the act of Parliament which established it did not say what should happen as a result," so any change in the law resulting from it must also be approved by Parliament, said David Neuberger, the president of Britain's Supreme Court. "To proceed otherwise would be a breach of settled constitutional principles stretching back many centuries." The decision doesn't mean that Britain will remain in the EU, but it could delay the process, the AP notes. (More Brexit stories.)

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