- Title: Supreme Court hearing ends on who can trigger Brexit
- Date: 8th December 2016
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (DECEMBER 8, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PRO-BREXIT CAMPAIGNERS TRYING TO SHOUT OVER ANTI-BREXIT SUPPORTERS
- Embargoed: 23rd December 2016 18:03
- Keywords: Article 50 Supreme Court Brexit Gina Miller Jeremy Wright Attorney General Theresa May
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- Country: United Kingdom
- Reuters ID: LVA0095C0YX53
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Britain's Supreme Court will decide as quickly as possible whether Prime Minister Theresa May can trigger Britain's exit from the European Union by the end of March without parliament's assent, its president said on Thursday (December 8).
Last month, the High Court decided that May could not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's exit clause, using executive powers known as the "royal prerogative".
The case could potentially hamper May's Brexit plans, and investors believe involving lawmakers would lessen the chances of a "hard" Brexit, where Britain gives up access to the single European market in order to impose tighter immigration controls.
Pro-Brexit critics have cast the legal battle as an attempt by a pro-EU establishment to thwart the result of June's referendum, when Britons voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU.
The government's argument is essentially that under Britain's unwritten constitution, it can make or leave international treaties without parliamentary assent.
"It's important to remember, this is power in the hands of government to do what the people have said they want doing and that's the argument we've been making in court and we will wait to see what the judges think of it," said the government's top lawyer, Attorney General Jeremy Wright.
The judges in the High Court case were dubbed "enemies of the people" by one newspaper while Gina Miller, the investment manager who brought the challenge, has received death threats and a torrent of online abuse.
"It's been quite emotionally and physically and mentally quite draining," she said after the four-day hearing wrapped up.
Miller and other challengers argue that triggering Article 50 would inevitably mean citizens would lose rights granted by parliament and so only lawmakers could take these away.
"The enormity of the case in that it would set a precedent that the government could use the prerogative to take away rights away on the domestic plane really really does come home when you sit there and hear all the arguments," said Miller, who has had to hire private security guards to escort in and out of court.
If May wins, she can follow her planned timetable for invoking Article 50. If she loses, she might need to bring in a parliamentary bill, albeit one containing just a single line.
While her lawyers were leaving the Supreme Court, just a short distance away May was undertaking a lighter official duty - switching on the Downing Street Christmas tree lights with school children.
She will clearly be hoping Santa delivers her a Supreme Court win this Christmas, but she'll have to wait until January to find out what the 11 judges decide.
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