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BREXIT

UK court rules government cannot trigger Brexit

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May was dealt a severe blow on Thursday when the High Court ruled that parliament and not the government must trigger article 50 to signal Britain's departure from the EU.

UK court rules government cannot trigger Brexit
Photo: AFP

The verdict, which the government has said it would appeal, means the UK’s decision to leave the EU must go to a parliamentary vote and cannot be decided by ministers alone.

While “Bremainers” will cheer the verdict, experts see the landmark ruling as slowing down the process of Brexit rather than putting a halt to it. 

British PM Theresa May has been severely criticized for trying to bypass parliament and for keeping her cards close to her chest on her negotiation strategy. Thursday's verdict should force her to reveal more to parliament about her planned Brexit strategy.

The legal dispute centred around the famous Article 50 of the treaty of the European Union, which must be triggered for Britain to begin the official and painstaking process of divorce from the EU.

The government believed it had the right to officially inform Brussels it is leaving the EU via its royal prerogative – powers that technically belong to the Queen, but which are vested in the government. But lawyers for the claimants, two British citizens, and other interested parties argued that parliament must  have the right to decide.

In reading out the verdict the lord chief justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd ruled that “the most fundamental rule of the UK constitution is that parliament is sovereign.

He added: “The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government.”

The shock verdict came after the lord chief justice spent three weeks considering the case with two other senior judges.

Their decision was read out to a packed courtroom in London’s Royal Courts of Justice.

The government said it would appeal the decision with a hearing in the Supreme Court due to take place in early December.

 

It was suggested before the verdict that the government may also decide not to appeal and instead gamble on the fact it has enough support in parliament to risk a vote by MPs, who, even if they are against Brexit, feel the referendum vote must be honoured.

However the House of Lords may be trickier.

Theresa May said last month that the government would trigger Article 50 to begin formal exit negotiations by the end of March 2017, however Thursday's decision may scupper that plan.

No date for the momentous parliamentary vote will be set until the legal process has been played out. 

Once Article 50 is triggered than that begins a two year process of negotiations between the UK and the EU, although many experts believe talks will rumble on for much longer.

The verdict did however have an immediate impact on the level of the Britain's currency as the pound sterling shot up.

 

 

 

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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