Britain’s Supreme Court says Parliament must approve plans to start the British withdrawal from the European Union (EU).
The ruling comes the same week that British Prime Minister Theresa May is to visit the United States. She will be the first world leader to meet with newly inaugurated President Donald Trump.
The high court ruled that the prime minister must consult Parliament to begin the withdrawal process.
Supreme Court President David Neuberger announced the decision on Tuesday. The court ruled eight to three that May cannot invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon by herself. The treaty is the agreement that sets rules for agencies that govern the E.U.
Putting that article into effect officially begins the withdrawal process, which is expected to take two years.
The withdrawal has been called ‘Brexit’, short for the words British and exit. May had argued that, as prime minister, she had the powers to start the process.
The high court said Parliament must approve the Brexit measure because withdrawing from the E.U. would cut off part of British law. It said the move also would change the rights of British citizens.
Britain’s Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, said the government will follow the ruling and, in his words, “do all it can to implement it.”
Wright said now Brexit was a political issue, and not a legal one.
Last June, British citizens approved a special referendum to leave the E.U. in a close vote.
Brexit means new trade deals must be negotiated
May has supported calls for what is being called a “hard” Brexit -- leaving the huge European single market completely.
The British government says it wants the nation to trade freely with countries around the world, including China and India.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently visited several cities in India. He said that although Britain is leaving the E.U., it is not withdrawing from trade.
“We may be leaving the E.U., we may be taking back control of our borders. But, my Indian friends, I say to you that does not mean we want to haul up the drawbridge,” he said.
However, critics say Britain is closing itself off from the world.
For example, education is a major British product. But the numbers of students from India in Britain are falling. India blames Britain’s visa system.
Pratik Dattani is the British director for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He says trade goes both ways.
“It's not all one way traffic -- that the U.K. can sell internationally and not bring anything in. There has to be an open policy in terms of allowing immigration...”
With Brexit, Britain will have to negotiate a trade deal with India independent of the E.U. Indian officials said they were willing to discuss a deal last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But official talks can take place only after Britain leaves the European Union.
Dattani adds that a trade deal could take years to negotiate. He says India and the E.U. have been negotiating a freed trade deal for seven or eight years. He says that Britain’s concerns have been among the issues slowing the talks.
British officials say they will look to the Commonwealth group of nations for new trade deals after Brexit. The Commonwealth’s more than 50 members are mostly former British colonies.
A meeting of Commonwealth heads of government is to take place later this year in London. However, experts say Britain may find it difficult to reach quick trade deals after leaving the E.U.
Concerns over what Brexit will mean for Britain and the E.U. continue to affect financial markets around the world.
The move would require Britain to renegotiate trade rules with all its trading partners -- not only in Europe, but around the world.
Trade is expected to be one of the main issues discussed when Teresa May meets with Donald Trump this week. Although it is unclear how long negotiations will take, Trump has said he supports Britain’s move.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Words in This Story
inaugurated – adj. to have officially been sworn into office
consult – v. to discuss something in order to make a decision
invoke – v. to formally announce the use of something such as a law or rule
implement – v. to put into action
referendum – n. a vote in which all voters cast ballots to decide an issue rather than representatives in government