[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Tuesday that parliament must vote on leaving the EU. The 8-3 decision is not expected to change the ultimate outcome of Britain leaving the EU, but instead creates uncertainty as to when the process will begin. The court cited [press release, PDF] the UK constitution to support its ruling.
The 2016 referendum is of great political significance. However, its legal significance is determined by what Parliament included in the statute authorising it, and that statute simply provided for the referendum to be held without specifying the consequences. The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation.
The court also determined that legislatures of the states encompassing the UK do not need to vote on Brexit as well.
A majority of UK voters expressed their desire to leave the EU [JURIST report] in June, leading to the resignation of prime minster David Cameron. 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.