Slowdown On The (Br)exit

In any other week this would have been my Sunday article which I often reserve for the biggest political story of the preceding week. Alas, I’m an American and the Election is Tuesday. Potentially the biggest thing that happened in global politics this week was the UK’s High Court ruling that declared Parliament must weigh in if the UK is to leave the European Union (EU). Here is the really strange part: it may not have any long-term effect at all. Let’s explore.

I guess I need to start off with a disclaimer/explanation. Unlike most Americans I don’t think the world starts at our Atlantic shore and ends at our Pacific shore. If you wanted to be very generous perhaps you could justify classifying me as an expert on American politics. When it comes to British politics it would be more accurate to call me a somewhat informed observer.

The Lisbon Treaty (which took effect in 2009) amended the two prior treaties that actually formed the EU and serve as its current constitutional basis. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows a member state to begin the process of exiting the union. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government had intended to invoke Article 50 in March and begin what was projected to be a two year long process of negotiating the terms of the UK’s exit with the other 27 EU member countries. The “justification” of that action was the result of the June 23rd referendum in which the electorate narrowly voted to leave the EU. The High Court ruled that Article 50 cannot be invoked without the authorization of Parliament.

My understanding of the British courts system is that the High Court is basically the equivalent of a US Federal Appeals Court and is only superseded by the UK’s Supreme Court. The May government has already announced that it will appeal the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court. An interesting aside is that May was an opponent of the Brexit in the run-up to June’s referendum but feels her duty as Prime Minister is to accept the results of that referendum.

The overwhelming expectation is that the Supreme Court will uphold the High Court’s ruling. It will just take some time thereby delaying the Brexit.

A complicating factor is that the majority of sitting MP’s (members of Parliament) is personally opposed to the Brexit. However, most knowledgeable observers feel that Parliament will not ultimately defy the will of the people.

Under May’s plan Article 50 would be invoked and the negotiations would commence. The government could then cut what it felt was the best available deal with the 27 other nations and bring it back to parliament for approval. Now Parliament will effectively be negotiating in public with the EU prior to the invoking of Article 50. The May government will then go to its 27 partners with its hand revealed; weaknesses exposed and try to get them to accept dictated terms. Good luck with that.

I wish I could say that the Brexit has been derailed but that does not seem likely. This is more like a significant delay. It is another example of what happens when the voters buy the half-baked promises and schemes of the right wing: confusion, chaos and economic hardship for the working class.

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