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Towards clarity on Brexit(Hindu)

The condition the U.K.’s highest court has stipulated for London to trigger Article 50 of the European Union treaty removes any shred of doubt about the legislature being bypassed in giving formal shape to the Brexit vote last June. The crux of the majority opinion is that there needs to be parliamentary endorsement in the form of primary legislation, not merely a ministerial decision or action, for the activation of the exit provision. In arriving at this position, the justices relied on the reasoning that Britain’s domestic laws would be significantly and substantially altered as a consequence of the impending termination of its membership of the EU. The stance of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government, which appealed an earlier ruling, was that once the people had spoken their mind in the June vote on whether to remain in or leave the EU, the executive could exercise the royal prerogative on matters of foreign policy. The opposition, on the other hand, had emphasised the propriety of a parliamentary consultation process before taking the country out of the EU, in the same way that its entry to the European Economic Community in 1973 was duly authorised by legislation. Ahead of the vote last year, the Leave campaign had alleged a serious erosion of national sovereignty within the bloc on account of the process of law-making initiated in Brussels, unmindful of scrutiny by a directly elected parliament across the bloc. It therefore seems only proper that members of Parliament are taken into confidence while the government sets out to give effect to the popular verdict in what was, after all, a legally non-binding referendum.

In the U.K. there is little political appetite remaining to attempt a reversal of the June vote, evident from the opposition’s intent to press amendments rather than challenge the Brexit legislation that has now become imperative. Thus, as Ms. May's March deadline to kick-start Article 50 approaches, there is more clarity over the shape of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the bloc. British and European businesses may see London’s move to leave the single market as unpalatable, but the near-term future is far less uncertain. Ms. May, in her landmark speech last week, was quite explicit that national controls over immigration from the EU and independence from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice were redlines for her government. It remains to be seen how London and the EU strive to strike the best possible bargain in the months ahead to promote their mutual interests. For, as Ms. May has emphasised time and again, the U.K. is leaving the European Union, not Europe.

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