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UK Supreme Court to rule on Brexit case

January 18, 2017

Britain's highest court is to rule on whether the process of leaving the European Union can begin without parliament's assent. Ministers are reported to be drafting a bill in case the ruling goes against them.

London Supreme Court
Image: picture-alliance/AA/K. Green

The UK Supreme Court is to rule next Tuesday on the government's appeal on the use of executive powers to start Britain's exit from the European Union, without parliament having a say. The case was brought by campaigners including investment manager Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir Dos Santos.

It revolves around the right of Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty using just "royal prerogative" powers. May said she would take the decision and begin the two-year formal process of leaving the EU by the end of March. A referendum in June 2016 returned a slight majority in favor of leaving the bloc.

But last November the High Court in London ruled that it would be unlawful for May to act alone.

May: Britain to leave EU single market

The government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, the UK's highest legal body. All eleven of the Court's judges took part in four days of hearings last month. Their ruling is to be announced on Tuesday morning next week, the Court announced on Wednesday. It is expected to take about five minutes for the court's president, Lord Neuberger, to read out a brief summary of the decision. Lawyers for the main parties will have received advance notice.

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, a number of legal experts expect the appeal to go against the government. "Government sources have already signalled that they expect to lose the main point of their appeal and have begun drafting versions of a bill to put before parliament approving Brexit," the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

May's Brexit plan

The announcement came a day after Theresa May made a speech outlining the current government strategy for Brexit.

On Wednesday, speaking in New Delhi, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson responded to French criticism of the UK's plan as he said of the President, if "Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who seeks to escape [the EU], in the manner of some world war two movie, I don't think that is the way forward, and it's not in the interests of our friends and partners."

In Berlin on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the two leaders said they would remain united in the face of Brexit. They also promised to work together closely as negotiations progressed, including on business and industrial issues.

Also on Wednesday Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta, which holds the EU presidency, said leaders of the bloc would have to meet about a month after May triggered Brexit, adding "We want a fair deal for the United Kingdom. But that deal necessarily needs to be inferior to membership."

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico echoed the sentiments as he said on Wednesday "I am convinced that in no case will a future agreement be more favourable for Great Britain than current membership in the EU."

"Negotiations over Brexit will be very tough and painful and it would be wrong if (remaining EU members) emerged weaker and Britain stronger," Fico added.

jm/rc (Reuters, AP)