Brexit battle: What next in the messy divorce proceedings?

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By Damon Embling
Brexit battle: What next in the messy divorce proceedings?

UK prime minister Theresa May has told EU leaders that she is confident a court ruling – which threatens to delay Britain’s exit from the bloc – will be overturned.

The ruling, made by the High Court on Thursday, states that parliament must be responsible for triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty – not the government.

May apparently told German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that her case for the government to enact the Article would win in the highest court, the Supreme Court.

‘Will of the people’

The PM is determined to carry out what she describes as the “will of the people” and deliver Brexit.

But the High Court ruling has raised doubts over whether she can kick off the divorce proceedings by the end of March, as planned. It has also prompted suggestions of an early election.

Ruling party member resigns

Some politicians have become increasingly angry about May’s insistence on ensuring the government has the right to invoke Article 50.

On Friday, a member of her ruling Conservative Party said he had resigned.

Stephen Phillips backs Britain leaving the EU, but wanted parliament to have a say.

“It has become clear to me over the last few months that my growing and very significant policy differences with the current government mean that I am unable properly to represent the people who elected me,” he said in a statement.

Court ruling ‘disappointing’

A spokesman for May said: “Clearly we are disappointed by yesterday’s decision, we’d rather not be in this position, but we are, so.. the key is our commitment to triggering Article 50 no later. The end of March remains the target for the government.”

The spokesman did not comment on whether the government was now drawing up back-up plans, if things go against it in the Supreme Court.

“What is important here is that we had a referendum, there was an overwhelming result in favour of leaving the European Union and that is what the government must do,” he said.

So will Brexit be blocked?

It’s unlikely that parliament will go against the referendum vote and block Brexit.

But if May is forced to draft legislation for consideration, things could get a little tight in terms of meeting the March deadline.

Sources say that could force the PM to call an early election, a move her aides have repeatedly rejected.

Hope and anger

Thursday’s court ruling has stoked hope among investors and pro-EU lawmakers that parliament will now be able to step up pressure on May and her government to soften any plans for a “hard Brexit” – or a clean break with the EU’s lucrative single market.

But, there’s mounting anger amongst pro-Brexit campaigners and Britain’s eurosceptic newspapers, with the Daily Mail describing the three judges that handed down the court ruling as “enemies of the people.”

The court ruling is stirring passions in Britain, just over four months after 52 percent of voters supported leaving the EU in a referendum which deepened splits in the country and gave voice to resentment.

Social media scorn

Some politicians, who had backed staying in the bloc, were criticised on social media, accused of trying to stop Brexit.