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Brexit may not actually happen after key court decision

The U.K. Parliament may be able to overrule the public's decision to leave the European Union.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Nov 3, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 4:09 pm CDT

After four months of confusion and infighting in U.K. politics, Brexit may not actually happen.

The British High Court ruled Thursday morning that Article 50, the legal mechanism for exiting the European Union, cannot be triggered without a parliamentary vote.

On June 23, the British public voted by 51.9 percent to leave the E.U., a decision that was quickly followed by a rise in hate crimes, the Prime Minister resigning, and the British pound plummeting in value. Prime Minister Theresa May, who took power after the Brexit vote, promised to trigger Article 50 before the end of March 2017, but the new High Court ruling will slow—or possibly halt—this process.

The High Court case was brought by businesswoman Gina Miller, who said following Thursday’s ruling, “You can’t have a government casually throwing away people’s rights.”

The Lord Chief Justice ruled that the prime minister’s plan to trigger Article 50 was “contrary  to fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament.” The government plans to appeal his decision.

This new development is, needless to say, complicated. Last month, May said that people campaigning for a parliamentary vote were “insulting the intelligence of the British people” and attempting to subvert a democratic decision. Meanwhile, her opponents argue that it’s parliament’s job to navigate complex political issues on behalf of the public, and a parliamentary vote would provide a check against the Brexit referendum result. 

In the months following the referendum, polls suggest that some Leave voters now regret their decision

If Brexit does go to a parliamentary vote, there’s a strong possibility that members of parliament will vote to remain in the E.U. While some may choose to support the decision made by their constituents, a significant majority of MPs voted to remain during the original referendum.

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*First Published: Nov 3, 2016, 9:01 am CDT