The High Court of the United Kingdom [official website] heard arguments today about the constitutionality of the Brexit referendum that occurred in June. The case centers around 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 multiple parties, that have been consolidated into one case, claim that their constitutional interests have been violated and that parliamentary sovereignty [petitioner’s case profile], not the Royal Prerogative, holds sway.
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. While the vote has fallen in favor of departure, no legal changes have taken place yet [Guardian report], as Britain must take further steps to confirm its separation. 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.