[JURIST] UK government lawyers argued in court on Monday that British Prime Minister Theresa May [official website] has the right to remove the UK from the EU. The case before the High Court of the UK centers on the the question of whether it is constitutional in the UK for the prime minister to invoke Article 50, which is the issuance of formal notice to leave the EU, without parliamentary approval [BBC report]. The government argued [WSJ report] that May has a responsibility to carry out the people’s wishes as expressed in the June vote to leave the EU. Additionally, they allege that May has the right to remove the UK from the EU because of “royal prerogative,” where ministers have the executive authority to govern on the monarch’s behalf.
A majority of British citizens voted in a referendum choosing to leave the EU. The vote, an extension of British discontent with the EU, defied the suggestions of economists and British leaders, leading to the resignation of Prime minister David Cameron [JURIST report]. The implications of this move extend beyond just immigration, though, as many believe this separation will negatively effect the British economy, which will likely be cut off from the EU’s single market, unless an agreement between the two can be reached. Concern over the economic health of Britain [Reuters report] going into the future led to a global market plunge today, as the pound fell as far as 10 percent against the dollar—a low not seen since 1985. The EU has set out a mechanism for leaving in Article 50 [materials] of the Lisbon Treaty, where a member state “may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements,” and “must notify the European council of its intention.” Under Article 50, a member country can only be removed from the EU two years after notification. While Britain might bypass this process through repeal of the European Communities Act of 1972, it is believed that this would make coming to a preferential trade agreement with the EU more difficult.