The High Court’s ruling that Theresa May must secure parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50
and withdrawing Britain from the European Union does not mean that Brexit isn’t going to happen.
So say economists Jacob Nell and Melanie Baker at Morgan Stanley, who argue in their recent note that they see little prospect that parliament would dare try to block the triggering of Article 50 in the House of Commons, and that it is also highly unlikely that the House of Lords would stand in the way.
After the judgment passed, numerous pro-Brexit media organisations were quick to claim that the landmark ruling will stop Britain’s exit from the EU actually happening, withthe front page of Friday’s Daily Express claiming that the High Court has “blocked Brexit.”
This simply isn’t true. Britain is going to leave the EU. What the verdict impacts is the process of withdrawal and potentially how long it will take.
Yes, the ruling will make Brexit even more complicated than it already is, but no, it isn’t going to stop Brexit from happening. Nell and Baker have the charts, and three key reasons to prove it.
First up, Morgan Stanley’s economists say, the already low level of trust the general public has in politicians means that they won’t dare go against the will of the people, especially given the rise of so-called “challenger parties” like UKIP.
“The verdict of the referendum, which was based on a Bill approved by this Parliament, was clear,and there will be some individual risk in opposing triggering Article 50 for each of the representatives of the ca. 70% of constituencies that voted Leave (see Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 4),” Nell and Baker argue.
Here are exhibits 3 and 4:
Secondly — no chart this time — the official position of both the governing Conservatives and the Labour party for Britain to leave the EU. Together, the two parties have 560 seats, equivalent to more than 86% of the Commons, so even if around 40% of their combined MPs vote against any Article 50 motion, it would still pass.
“There is a lack of major party opposition, since the Conservative party’s policy is a policy of Leave and the Labour party’s policy is “not to stand in the way of Brexit”, so the two largest parties are supportive of, or at least not opposed to, triggering Article 50. Further, after the referendum both parties support restrictions on free movement of labour for EU citizens,” Morgan Stanley argues.
Morgan Stanley’s third point is as follows: “Public opinion has not turned against Brexit, and the Brexit parties (here we include both the Conservatives and UKIP under that umbrella) currently have the support of over 50% of the population.”
Here’s the chart:
As a final point, Nell and Baker say that they feel it is pretty unlikely that the unelected House of Lords — which gives final approval to all bills — will stop Article 50 being triggered, noting that “the appointed members of the House of Lords may feel constrained from preventing Article 50 being triggered, if the Commons has approved the Bill.”
So there we have it, Brexit means Brexit, even if parliament gets to vote on it. Calm down, everyone.
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