You might have heard of Article 50 in all the Brexit drama so far – it’s basically a process within which the British government officially says to the EU “We’d like to leave please,” and all the formal negotiations on the nuts and bolts of the process begin.
British Fund manager Gina Miller, Spanish hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, and British expat Grahame Pigney claimed in court that the British government couldn’t start this process without parliament’s approval. The case went to the High Court (one of the most influential courts in the UK), and won, meaning the British government needs to call a vote in parliament. The government has decided to appeal the ruling with Britain’s supreme court.
How did people react?
Bankers and investors got so overexcited when the result was announced that they immediately started buying pounds and investing in British stocks and shares. The value of the pound jumped by 1.2% within a few hours, and shares in British banks like Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland got more expensive too. But as soon as the government said it’d appeal the ruling, the pound’s value fell right back down again – i.e., the same people who’d been temporarily convinced that Britain might remain after all changed their minds, and re-sold the pounds they’d just bought.
What does this mean?
Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has popped back up in the media to say he thinks a “betrayal” is afoot. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn says this signals the need for more “transparency and accountability” on Brexit. Trade secretary Liam Fox says he’s “disappointed.” Chancellor Philip Hammond, the current government’s main man on the economy, hasn’t responded yet, but did say just a few days ago that he thinks a post-Brexit Britain is facing an “unprecedented level of uncertainty” – and this ruling certainly won't help lower that.
Okay, but what does that actually mean?
No-one really knows yet. 480 out of the 630 MPs in the British parliament backed the Remain campaign, but it’s unlikely they’d vote against the referendum result, so it probably won’t change much.
The big debate at the moment is still over ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit. ‘Soft Brexit’ would mean keeping some degree of free movement of people with Europe in exchange for keeping some degree of free trade within Europe – what’s known as ‘staying in the single market’. Hard Brexit would mean scrapping all that, and just relying on the rules of the World Trade Organization and industry-by-industry deals to sort out the economic relationship between Britain and EU countries.
People behind a ‘hard Brexit’ are saying it’s the only way for true economic freedom, but that’s not quite true; the World Trade Organization enforces rules which say companies have to pay fees for trade (known as
) as well. But a ‘soft Brexit’ would be pretty difficult to negotiate considering the fact that free movement was a big part of why so many Britons voted for Brexit in the first place.
I’m Gary, a 43 year old accountant from Lancashire. Is this going to change anything for me?
The only real difference this judgement makes for your daily life right now is that people will continue to be uncertain about buying British pounds until they know what’s going on. And that means the value of your wages and savings will continue to be shaky in contrast to global currencies. Maybe just don’t go on holiday for a bit, and keep the telly on until the Supreme Court ruling goes through. And make sure you’ve told your MP what you think about Brexit if you haven't already – if you've changed your mind since the vote, or you really want to get your voice heard, this is probably their last chance to do something about it.
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