In a stunning development, the High Court in London ruled on Thursday that Parliament, and not the government, has the authority to start the process of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. This has raised fears that the process of Brexit may come to a halt. Parliamentary approval of the Brexit process will only come through a vote by its members. In one sense, this order delegitimises the referendum vote in June, where Britain had voted to leave.
If the Supreme Court backs the High Court’s ruling, the British government will be unable to use its executive powers to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which begins the two-year window of leaving the economic bloc. Reports indicate that the Theresa May-led government will challenge the Court’s decision in the Supreme Court. The country looks set for many months of political obstacles.
In an insightful column for an online portal, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, wrote: “Our political system, modelled on the British, requires our people to elect representatives who then, in their wisdom, are entrusted to make decisions and pass laws on their behalf.
Other systems, notably the Swiss, refer all the critical decisions to referenda in which the public as a whole vote to determine policy outcomes.” Citizens exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.
“To make decisions like (Brexit) this by referendum is to abdicate a major responsibility of the political class – to make informed decisions on behalf of the people they serve,” Tharoor goes on to add. The High Court in London seems to have adopted this spirit of Parliamentary democracy.
In June, the dramatic results of the Brexit referendum led to stock markets crashing worldwide, and the resignation of David Cameron, who was Prime Minister at the time. Despite calls for a second referendum, the British government had proceeded to fulfil the wishes of the first referendum.