Parliament must vote to commence Brexit: UK Supreme Court

London, Jan 24 (IANS) Britain’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Prime Minister Theresa May’s government must seek parliamentary approval before it can start the formal legal process for withdrawing from the European Union (EU), the media reported.

According to the ruling, Theresa May cannot withdraw Britain from the EU alone and must get approval from MPs and peers first, the Independent reported.

Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President David Neuberger said: “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today (Tuesday) rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 (the mechanism that formally initiates a two-year negotiation period to leave the EU) without an Act of Parliament authorising it to do so.”

May has vowed to enact the legislation by the end of March.

The Supreme Court ruled that there was no need for the government to wait for consent from the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, said a report in the Guardian.

Although the ruling, according to reports, represents a blow to Theresa May’s intended timetable on Brexit, a Downing Street spokesman said it had not changed the verdict of the British people.

“It’s important to remember that Parliament backed the referendum by a margin of six to one and has already indicated its support for getting on with the process of exit to the timetable we have set out,” a spokesman said.

“We respect the Supreme Court’s decision, and will set out our next steps to Parliament shortly.”

The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Liberal Democrats are likely to vote against the bill if their amendments are not passed, and some Labour rebels will join them, said the report.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would not “frustrate the process for invoking Article 50” but would seek to amend the government’s bill.

Corbyn said: “Labour will seek to amend the Article 50 bill to prevent the Conservatives using Brexit to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven off the coast of Europe.”

“Labour will seek to build in the principles of full, tariff-free access to the single market and maintenance of workers’ rights and social and environmental protections.

“The party is demanding a plan from the government to ensure it is accountable to parliament throughout the negotiations and a meaningful vote to ensure the final deal is given parliamentary approval,” Corbyn further said.

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron confirmed his party would vote against Article 50 unless people were given another vote on the final deal.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, said the ruling showed the promises made to the Scottish government on devolution were “not worth the paper they were written on”. She said the Scottish Parliament would still have an opportunity to vote on whether it consented to the triggering of Article 50.

Attorney-General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling but would comply with it.

He said enacting the decision would now be a political and not legal matter.

The case against the government was brought by Gina Miller, an investment manager, and hairdresser Deir Tozetti Dos Santos.

Outside the court, she said MPs would now have the chance to help the government select the best course in Brexit talks. She added that her victory was “not about politics, but process”.

The pound fell on Tuesday after the Supreme Court ruling. The pound was recently trading at $1.246, down around 0.6 per cent on the day. Before the judgement sterling was above $1.25, at a five-week high. Against the euro, sterling was 0.3 per cent lower at €1.160.