London’s High Court just gave a clear and legal way for parliament to block Prime Minister Theresa May from triggering Article 50, and thereby stopping the two-year negotiation process for a Brexit.
The ruling also potentially signed the death warrant for Brexit. And it has given May a “Get Out Jail Free” card. It is much less likely that Brexit will happen now.
As it stands, May must get parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50. The government confirmed that it will be appealing the decision, which means the case will be transferred to the Supreme Court in December this year. It will be the first time the Supreme Court sits in full since its establishment in 2009.
If the Supreme Court rejects the appeal, the UK will have to go to the European Court of Justice for a second round of appeals.
Good luck with that, Theresa May.
If it stands that Article 50 can only be triggered with parliamentary approval, it is less likely than ever that Brexit will happen.
This is why.
We know for a fact how Brexit campaign leaders lied
Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23. But Brexiteers only won on a slim majority of 51.9%. This was hardly a landslide vote from the people.
Throughout the campaign period for the EU referendum, Vote Leave leaders dubbed any pessimistic reading from the Remain camp as part of “Project Fear.” MP Michael Gove famously said that “people in this country have had enough of experts,” every time an analyst, economist, or think tank aired warnings over the potential repercussions of a Brexit.
But since the vote, we know that some of the biggest campaign promises peddled out by the Vote Leave campaign were false.
Most notably, Vote Leave’s biggest campaign promise was that £350 million ($467 million) a week would go to the NHS once Britain stopped making payments to the EU in the event of a Brexit — this was proven untrue and the campaign backtracked on its pledge.
Now, people are trying to take those Leave campaigners to court over this alleged lies.
Marcus J. Ball, launched a crowdfunding project called #BrexitJustice which intends to take British politicians to court for allegedly lying during the EU referendum campaign. When BI last spoke to Ball, he had raised £145,000 from the public.
In sum, the leave camp has lost a lot of the support it had on the day of the vote.
We now know the devastating effects Brexit is having on Britain
In the run-up to the EU referendum, independent analysts, think thanks, investment banks, and economists outlined in dozens of reports how Brexit would damage the UK economy. This included forecasts and analysis by UK Treasury, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, several independent research houses, and the banks.
These were brushed off by Brexiteers as “Project Fear.”
But guess what? — it is all coming true.
The pound slumped to a 31-year low and has remained near record lows since the vote. On Thursday after the ruling was announced, the pound surged on hopes that Brexit will not happen — it’s a pretty damning indictment on how the market feels about Brexit:
What makes everything worse is that May’s cabinet is pushing Britain into a “hard Brexit” — leaving the EU without access to the Single Market. This is because May is prioritising immigration control over economic access.
EU Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker and the EU Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt have both said Britain will not be allowed to retain access to the Single Market if Britain pulls out of the EU’s Freedom of Movement act.
In terms of the economy, even the UK treasury said that “hard Brexit” will cost the UK £66 billion ($81.2 billion) a year in lost tax revenues.
Even UK officials have said that the UK will still have to fork out billions of pounds a year, even in a “hard Brexit,” to access the Single Market in a “pay-as-you-go” kind of way.
We’ve been visited by the ghost of Christmas future
In Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” the character Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
They forced Scrooge to see what lay before him, and made him change his ways to prevent that gloomy outlook from becoming a reality.
Politicians have the same chance.
Britain is still part of the EU. Brexit has not happened yet. It won’t happen for years, even if Article 50 is triggered tomorrow.
While Britain is in limbo we have been given a glimpse into a bleak post-Brexit future for Britain:
- We are likely to lose our financial passporting rights — The passport is essentially a series of interconnected pieces of legislation that allow financial institutions to operate across borders in the EU with few restrictions. Paris, France and Frankfurt, Germany are already looking to take over from London, in the event of a Brexit.
- Companies in financial services — a huge part of Britain’s economy — are looking to leave — The boss of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) claims that banks are poised to move operations out of the UK as soon as Christmas, amid fears that Britain could lose its financial passporting rights in Brexit negotiations. Meanwhile, on top of all that, HSBC and JP Morgan are among the banks that could send UK-based staff elsewhere in the aftermath of Brexit. Many other huge financial firms have also voiced similar views.
- One of Britain’s biggest investors says it will pull out cash — The US Chamber of Commerce, which represents US companies with $590 billion invested in the UK, warned that post-Brexit Britain would need “unfettered access” to the European single market to maintain US companies’ investment in the UK economy.
- Jobs are waning — Growth in financial jobs in London is already waning and more and more people are competing for spots.
- Britons are going to get poorer — The National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) estimated in its quarterly “UK Economy Forecast” that incomes will shrink and inflation will rise to nearly 4%.
This is May’s “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” card and Britain’s chance to stop Brexit
Theresa May has always been stuck between a rock and a hard place when she took over as Prime Minister in July this year.
She was on the Remain side of the campaign before the referendum but since Britain voted for a Brexit, she was pretty much forced to take up the mantle of ushering Britain out of the EU. She made that clear with her “Brexit means Brexit” speech. And she assembled a cabinet that is a mix of Remainers and Brexiteers.
If she did not actively push Britain into a Brexit, she would be criticised as undemocratic for not fulfilling the wishes of the 51.9% of people that voted for leaving the EU.
However, an audio recording leaked to The Guardian showed that May is pushing the country into a Brexit plan that she knows is doomed to fail economically and make the nation less safe.
In the recording, from May 26, the then-home secretary warned Goldman bankers about the potential consequences of a Brexit. Every point she made demolished the case for leaving the EU:
- Brexit fallout — “I think the economic arguments are clear. I think being part of a 500-million trading bloc is significant for us. I think, as I was saying to you a little earlier, that one of the issues is that a lot of people will invest here in the UK because it is the UK in Europe.”
- Businesses leaving — “If we were not in Europe, I think there would be firms and companies who would be looking to say, do they need to develop a mainland Europe presence rather than a UK presence? So I think there are definite benefits for us in economic terms.”
- Britain’s security — “There are definitely things we can do as members of the European Union that I think keep us more safe.”
So what now?
May was a Remainer. She probably still is. But as prime minister she needs to carry out the will of the majority — regardless of how slight it is. She must ask parliament to trigger Article 50.
But parliament could block Britain from its dystopian future. If that happened May could not be blamed for failing the Leavers, as it is up to the majority in the Commons, not just her.
And it looks likely that MPs will block Brexit, given a chance.
As my colleague Jim Edwards pointed out,about 73% of all MPs favour Remain. That majority includes 56% of all Conservative MPs. Morgan Stanley sketched this in a useful chart a few months ago:
The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said the Labour party won’t block Brexit. He said this before the ruling too, and angered the party’s more pro-EU members. However, if there is anything we have learned over the last year, it is that Labour does not have a good track record of its politicians listening to its leader.
So, if Britain’s government is unsuccessful in its appeals process and parliament gets to vote on triggering Article 50, this is the nation’s last chance to put this all behind us, save us from a bleak future, and get on with our lives.