Posts Tagged ‘Britain’s exit from the European Union’

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May Grapples With Public Split in Party Over Her Leadership — But “No one can think of a plausible alternative”

October 6, 2017

Senior Conservative lawmaker says he has sounded out colleagues about unseating her

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May responds to claims that Conservative Party members wanted her to step down, saying she is providing “calm leadership” with the “full support” of her cabinet.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May responds to claims that Conservative Party members wanted her to step down, saying she is providing “calm leadership” with the “full support” of her cabinet. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON—Prime Minister Theresa May’s shaky hold on power was underlined Friday as a senior lawmaker said he has been sounding out colleagues about unseating her.

The unusual public statement, by Grant Shapps, a former co-chairman of her Conservative Party, came just days after Mrs. May’s keynote speech calling for unity at the party’s annual conference was overshadowed by a prankster’s interruption, a coughing fit and a malfunctioning stage set.

Senior colleagues rallied to Mrs. May’s defense, and analysts said she will probably hang on for now, given the risk that a leadership contest could disrupt talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union or culminate in an election that would give a resurgent Labour Party a shot at power.

Mrs. May’s leadership has been in question since she called a snap general election in June in which the Conservatives lost their majority following a lackluster campaign. Since then, senior ministers have publicly sparred over Brexit and other areas of policy during the summer, highlighting the prime minister’s diminished authority. This week’s conference did little to galvanize the party.

Theresa May’s Speech Overshadowed by Mishaps
British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered bouts of coughing, a prankster on stage and falling scenery as she struggled to deliver closing remarks at the U.K.’s Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester, England. Photo: AP

Mr. Shapps, who held several posts in government under Mrs. May’s predecessor, David Cameron, said that her leadership “isn’t working.”

“You can’t just carry on when things aren’t working,” Mr. Shapps told the British Broadcasting Corp. He said he and around 30 colleagues in Parliament had intended to contact the prime minister privately to urge her to stand down until the plan was revealed in the U.K.’s The Times newspaper. That number falls short of the 48 required under Conservative Party rules to hold a leadership contest.

Mr. Shapps added most Conservative Party lawmakers believe Mrs. May won’t lead the party into the next election, scheduled for 2022, and that some feel a leadership contest should be held “sooner rather than later.”

“There’s nothing wrong or illegitimate about thinking we can do better than this and I think that does involve, I’m afraid to say—though Theresa May is a fundamentally decent person—having a new leader,” he said. Mr. Shapps couldn’t be reached for comment.

Speaking in her southern England constituency, Mrs. May brushed off Mr. Shapps’ criticism, saying she plans to stay in post. “What the country needs is calm leadership and that’s what I am providing with the full support of my cabinet,” she said.

Among the senior ministers who came to her defense was Michael Gove, himself a leadership contender after Mr. Cameron’s resignation in summer 2016. “The prime minister is doing a fantastic job,” Mr. Gove told the BBC, adding that she has shown “enormous grace and real grit” in office. Mrs. May was also backed by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and First Secretary of State Damian Green.

The pound fell against the dollar after the news emerged, declining 0.6% to $1.3036.

The history of the U.K.’s Conservative Party is littered with efforts to remove party leaders while prime minister. Margaret Thatcher was ousted in 1990, three years after winning her third back-to-back election. Her successor, John Major, was beset by grumbling about his leadership, which he eventually stopped by dramatically resigning and forcing a contest he ultimately won.

Complicating any effort to unseat Mrs. May is Britain’s exit from the EU. Reflecting splits during last year’s referendum, the party is divided between those who favor maintaining close ties to the EU—such as Treasury chief Philip Hammond —and those who would prefer a swift and clean break, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

That makes uniting lawmakers around a successor difficult, said Anand Menon, professor of European politics at King’s College London. “No one can think of a plausible alternative” to Mrs. May, he said.

He added it would also take up valuable negotiating time, as well as raise questions in Brussels over Britain’s Brexit strategy, ahead of its scheduled departure in March 2019. The EU is already resisting U.K. entreaties to move negotiations away from a handful of key divorce issues and on to trade and other aspects of Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Under Conservative Party rules, a leadership election is triggered if 15% of lawmakers in the House of Commons, Parliament’s lower chamber, declare they no longer have confidence in the party leader or the leader quits.

Candidates for leader are whittled down to two by successive votes among lawmakers and the final choice is made by all party members. The process can take as long as nine weeks, though Mrs. May was elected last summer in around two weeks after her rivals were eliminated or dropped out of the race.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-k-prime-minister-theresa-may-grapples-with-public-split-in-party-over-her-leadership-1507300490?mod=e2tweu

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‘Infinitesimally Small’ Chance of Brexit by March 2019, Archbishop Says — Raised the possibility of Britain cancelling Brexit

July 31, 2017

LONDON — The chance of Britain’s exit from the European Union taking place by March 2019 is “infinitesimally small” because domestic political wrangling will prevent the detailed work that is needed for Brexit, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Monday.

Justin Welby, spiritual head of the Anglican communion of millions of Christians globally, has called for a cross-party commission on Brexit, warning that since Prime Minister Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority there was a temptation for every disagreement to become a vote of confidence.

Image result for Justin Welby, photos

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

“There are literally thousands of separate agreements to come to,” Welby told BBC Radio on Monday.

“If each one of those has to be argued as a point of confidence on the floor of the (parliament’s) House of Commons, the chance of getting this done in what’s now roughly 18 months is infinitesimally small,” he said.

After May’s failed gamble on a snap election, the future of Brexit has been thrown into question with May facing public pressure to temper her plans for a clean break with the EU.

While both May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party now explicitly support leaving the club the United Kingdom joined in 1973, some of the EU’s most powerful politicians have raised the possibility of Britain cancelling Brexit.

Negotiations on the future relationship between Britain and the EU are now less likely to start in October due to a lack of progress at the initial stage of talks about the breakup, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has told EU ambassadors.

Welby, a member of parliament’s upper House of Lords, said that while major questions, such as membership of the EU’s single market, were “huge political decisions”, there were thousands of other things that could be decided by a commission.

“Can the politicians not put at the front of their minds the needs of the United Kingdom to come out with a functional working system for Brexit and agree that certain things are … off the political table and will be decided separately in an expert commission?” he said.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

A Look at What Is Ahead Now That Brexit Talks Have Started

June 19, 2017

BRUSSELS — The talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union finally started Monday when EU negotiator Michel Barnier said “Welcome David” to his counterpart, David Davis, and led him toward a huge oval table at the European Commission headquarters.

As the negotiations kick off, here’s a look at some of the major issues the sides face.

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DIVORCE FIRST

They will first have to unravel the British from the EU, which will be challenging to say the least. That will involve everything from deciding what waters each side can fish in to how nuclear agreements should be renegotiated. Only when there is “sufficient progress” does the EU want to look at creating a new relationship with Britain on things like trade and migration. Britain hopes the two themes — divorce terms and future relationship — can be discussed in parallel.

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WHAT DIVORCE ISSUES GET TACKLED FIRST?

While Britain has struggled to agree on and present a coherent list of demands, the 27 EU nations have had one message all along — in the words of Barnier on Monday: “We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit.” It means clarifying the fate of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa, how to manage the border between Ireland and the U.K., and how much Britain will pay.

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MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

The EU says Britain can’t leave without settling its bill, paying up for all its commitments that are still ongoing, including projects that might reach into the next decade, as well as the U.K.’s share of EU staff pensions. EU officials have put the figure at around 50 billion euros ($63 billion) while other estimates by think tanks and in the media go as high as twice that amount. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues.

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WHAT ARE THE RED LINES?

The EU says it will not compromise on its core “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. Britain insists that it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from other EU countries into Britain. May says Britain will leave the EU’s single market in goods and services and its tariff-free customs union, but nonetheless, somehow, wants “frictionless” free trade.

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DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019. EU nations and the European Parliament will have to approve any future deal and that can take months. EU officials have therefore put the realistic deadline at October — and at the latest November — of 2018. If no deal is struck by then, the sides may have to create a transitional deal, possibly prolonging some of the current relationship.

If Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, that would create huge uncertainties for citizens and businesses as well as issues like global security. How bad that would be in reality is anyone’s guess.

UK Labour Leader Corbyn Says Brexit Talks Must Go Ahead After Inconclusive Poll

June 9, 2017

LONDON — Talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union must go ahead, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday, after Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win a majority in parliament in a national election.

May, whose Conservative Party won the most seats, has signaled she will use her right as incumbent to make the first attempt to form a government, but it is unclear whether she will have the necessary support to do so.

Asked whether Brexit negotiations, due to start on June 19, should be delayed, Corbyn told Sky News: “They’re going to have to go ahead because Article 50 has been invoked, the government in office in 11 days time will have to conduct those Brexit negotiations.”

“Our position is very clear, we want a jobs-first Brexit, therefore the most important thing is the trade deal with Europe,” he added.

Corbyn said Labour had won the election as it saw an increase in seats and vote share, and the party was ready to lead a minority government.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

British PM Theresa May under fire in televised debate — Corbyn accuses May of “subservience” to Trump

June 3, 2017

France 24 and The Associated Press

© Stefan Rousseau / POOL / AFP | British Prime Minister Theresa May takes part in “The Question Time, Leaders Special” hosted by David Dimbleby

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-06-03

With less than a week until Britain votes in a national election, Prime Minister Theresa May faced tough questions from voters Friday about her Conservative government’s cuts to welfare and health spending.

She was also accused by opponents of failing to stand up to the United States over its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared before a live audience on prime-time TV — but consecutively, rather than side by side.

May has refused to take part in any televised debates, saying she prefers to answer questions directly from voters. Friday’s show may have tested that preference, as audience members criticized the prime minister for presiding over stagnant wages for nurses and cuts for those needed physical and mental care.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. EPA/GETTY

May said the government had “had to take some hard choices across the public sector” to curb spending and reduce the country’s deficit.

She also denied breaking promises, including her vow not to call an early election. May said she “had the balls to call an election” because it was important to give the government a stronger mandate to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union.

May spoke after President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would pull out of the Paris accord sent the issue of climate change — and May’s attempts to bolster the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” — to the top of the agenda in campaigning for Britain’s June 8 election.

May’s said she spoke to Trump by phone “and told him that the U.K. believes in the Paris agreement and that we didn’t want the United States to leave the Paris agreement.”

But Britain did not sign a joint statement by the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, who said they regretted Trump’s decision and insisted that the accord cannot be renegotiated.

May’s office would not say whether she had been asked to sign it. May noted that Japan and Canada — fellow members of the G-7 group of rich industrialized nations — also were not signatories, but like Britain remain committed to the Paris agreement.

“I made the U.K.’s position clear to President Trump last week at the G-7 meeting, as did the other G-7 leaders, and I made the position clear to President Trump last night,” May said Friday.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said not signing the declaration was an “appalling abdication of leadership.”

Corbyn accused May of “subservience” to Trump.

The Labour leader, a veteran left-winger who was given little chance of beating May at the start of the election, has had a good campaign and seen his poll ratings rise.

Corbyn also was made to squirm by the television audience, who pressed him on his opposition to Britain’s nuclear arsenal, and asked if he would be prepared to use atomic weapons if Britain was threatened.

He did not answer definitively, but said he would “do everything I can to ensure that any threat is actually dealt with earlier on by negotiations and by talks.”

“I think the idea of anyone ever using a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is utterly appalling and terrible,” Corbyn said.

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London finance chief upbeat after Brexit trigger

April 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Roland JACKSON | A person holds Union Flags near the Houses of Parliament in London, on March 29, 2017, after British Prime Minister Theresa May activated the process for Britain’s exit from the European Union

LONDON (AFP) – The outlook for London’s financial sector has improved since Brexit was triggered, insists the man charged with its policy, even as banks remain set to move some jobs abroad.

Mark Boleat, who spoke on Thursday to AFP after British Prime Minister Theresa May activated the process for Britain’s EU exit, nevertheless urged speedy trade talks to minimise disruption.

The signing of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty late last month has kick-started a two-year countdown to Brexit.

“On the whole, I think things are looking rather better,” Boleat said when asked about the impact on London’s financial sector, otherwise known as the City.

“We would hope that the negotiations go quickly and go well,” he said.

If early agreement could be reached on the terms for exit and on the rights of EU nationals, “there will be the minimum of disruption to business and consumers in this country — and in Europe,” said Boleat, who steps down next month as policy chairman of the City of London Corporation.

Bank of England chief Governor Mark Carney on Friday warned of sector-wide consequences of leaving without a trade deal, but was optimistic for an agreement.

– London to lose bank jobs –

In the run-up to last year’s Brexit referendum, the business community threw its weight behind the failed Remain campaign, arguing it would prompt large-scale City job losses.

So far, HSBC has stated it would likely shift 1,000 jobs to Paris, where the banking titan already has a significant operation.

US player Goldman Sachs will meanwhile move 1,000 staff from London to Frankfurt.

Boleat sought, however, to calm jitters over banks shifting jobs to other major European hubs.

“Banks have had contingency plans since before the Brexit referendum in some cases. They have known there is a possibility that Britain will not be in the single market — that has now been confirmed.”

Many banks “will need to restructure what they are doing — perhaps cease doing a few things, in some cases build up business elsewhere in the European Union. They are getting on and doing that.”

And he cited US investment bank JPMorgan’s chief executive Jamie Dimon, who stated this week that he did not foresee shifting many staff from Britain over the next two years because of Brexit.

“I don’t think businesses are going to announce what they are doing in a great fanfare,” Boleat said.

As executives such as Jamie Dimon had pointed out, “we are going to need to build up our resources in other EU member states.”

A few people would be moved, but “no one is going to say: we are closing down in London,” he said.

Historic insurance market Lloyd’s of London was the first group to respond to the Brexit trigger, announcing it will open a Brussels subsidiary in early 2019.

The market, which insures against catastrophes such as earthquakes, shipwrecks and revolutions, is seeking to ensure its continued access across the bloc.

– ‘It will not be Lloyd’s of Brussels’ –

Lloyd’s is “a unique organisation. It’s not a company, it’s a market. They will have to do something if Britain is outside the single market,” Boleat told AFP.

“They have spent a long time looking at location. They have decided it’s Brussels.”

But that was only part of their business, he said.

“It’s Lloyd’s of London. The vast bulk of its business will stay in London. It will not be Lloyd’s of Brussels,” the departing policy chief added.

Boleat also argued that the future location of euro clearing — the processing of euro currency transactions — should remain in London.

Image result for euro currency , Photos

France has been particularly vocal that other EU hubs should be ready to take over from London.

“The clearing is done in London because that is where the expertise is. That’s where the market is. Brexit will not change that,” Boleat said.

“Euro clearing is already a political football — but we hope that economic reality will determine the outcome, not a wish to have a trophy function move to another place.”

by Roland JACKSON

Brexit Supreme Court ruling: UK government loses case to trigger Article 50 without parliamentary vote

January 24, 2017

Verdict to be delivered on whether Prime Minister has enough authority to enact Brexit alone, or must get MPs’ approval

theresa-may-face.jpg

The Supreme Court is due to announce its verdict on Theresa May’s Brexit plans; ruling whether she can withdraw Britain from the EU alone or must get approval from MPs and peers first.

Here are the latest updates

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Their decision will affect whether Ms May has enough authority to trigger Article 50 on her own, the process through which a country can begin to leave the EU.he case has been brought by banker Gina Miller, along with other appellants including a crowd-funded cohort titled The Peoples’ Challenge. They argued that despite the 23 June referendum, which saw Britain vote to leave the EU, MPs are still entitled to vote on whether or not it actually happens.

In November, the High Court heard the case and ruled against the government. The Prime Minister’s lawyers appealed the case meaning it was transferred to the Supreme Court.

It is widely expected the government will also lose this case.

Britain’s Supreme Court Set to Rule on Brexit Case

January 24, 2017

LONDON — Britain’s Supreme Court will rule Tuesday on whether the prime minister or Parliament has the right to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union.

The 11 justices will either uphold an earlier ruling giving Parliament a direct role in invoking Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty or reject that ruling in favor of the government’s claim it can do so without a vote in Parliament. Article 50, which has never been used before, starts the formal process of taking Britain out of the 28-nation EU.

Here are answers to some key questions about the case.

Image may contain: tree, sky and outdoor

Britain’s Supreme Court

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WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to start the Article 50 process, which is expected to last two years, by the end of March.

European leaders want to get talks underway, and some British voters who backed Brexit in a June referendum are getting impatient.

Having Parliament play a direct role could slow the process down.

Although the leader of the opposition Labour Party says its legislators will back Brexit out of respect for the referendum result, the process could easily be delayed in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

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WHAT HAPPENS IF THE GOVERNMENT LOSES ITS APPEAL?

May’s ministers have prepared several draft pieces of legislation that could be introduced in Parliament.

The goal is to craft a very short, limited bill that would give May the authority to invoke Article 50, but would be difficult to amend or tamper with.

The bill that is introduced would be shaped in large part by the actual decision, which may spell out specific requirements.

The government has drawn up various contingency plans to deal with guidelines that may be imposed by the court. The judges could say, for example, that a single vote in Parliament would be sufficient, or it could require the more time-consuming drafting of a law.

The government would likely move quickly to introduce a bill with the goal of meeting the March deadline.

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COULD A LOSS FOR THE GOVERNMENT MEAN AN END TO BREXIT?

It’s very unlikely Parliament would vote against the government’s proposal given the referendum result.

It would be seen by Brexit supporters and many who opposed it as an anti-democratic measure thwarting the will of the people.

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WHAT IF THE GOVERNMENT WINS?

A reversal of the lower court ruling would give May the authority to start Article 50 negotiations when she chooses without input from Parliament.

She has said, however, that Parliament will be asked to approve any Brexit deal reached at the conclusion of the talks.

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WILL THE RULING BE A SIMPLE YES OR NO ON THE GOVERNMENT APPEAL?

No, the ruling could become more complicated. The judges must consider bids from Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland politicians to have their legislatures given a role in the process because Article 50 would significantly change the powers granted to them through devolution.

A ruling in that direction could slow the process, particularly since the Northern Ireland Assembly is about to be dissolved, with elections set for March 2. The Scottish Parliament is also problematic for the government, since it is dominated by legislators who want to remain in the EU.

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5 Things to Watch From the U.K. Supreme Court’s Brexit Ruling

January 24, 2017

The U.K.’s Supreme Court on Tuesday delivers a ruling on whether Prime Minister Theresa May needs the approval of Parliament to trigger Brexit, in one of the most politically charged cases in decades. Here’s a quick look at what the decision could mean:

  • 1  The ruling concludes a landmark case

    Britain’s Supreme Court, its highest judicial body, will give a roughly six- or seven-minute decision, concluding a high-profile case on whether Mrs. May can use the “royal prerogative”–the executive authority given to ministers to govern on the monarch’s behalf–to launch divorce proceedings with the European Union, expected to start by the end of March. The plaintiffs, led by investment manager Gina Miller, argue that triggering Article 50 needs parliamentary approval, as leaving the EU would mean British citizens lose certain rights linked to Britain’s membership. In November, London’s High Court agreed, prompting a government appeal.

    Gina Miller, lead plaintiff

    ZUMA PRESS
  • 2  If the government loses…

    The ruling concerns the legal process by which Britain plans to exit the EU–not the decision to leave itself. The court could require Mrs. May to get parliamentary approval, meaning she would likely introduce a bill that would have to go Parliament. What that bill would look like depends on the ruling and what it requires, potentially giving the lawmakers, who were largely in favor of Britain’s continued EU membership, a say on the U.K.’s negotiation strategy.

  • 3…but it is unlikely to stop Brexit 

    Both major parties in Parliament say they respect the outcome of the June 23 referendum, when 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. The opposition Labour Party has said it will not oppose triggering Article 50. Mrs. May says she intends to stick to her plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

    EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
  • Investors are paying close attention

    Mrs. May has also promised that she would grant lawmakers a vote on the final deal, a pledge that prompted a sharp rally in sterling after it plummeted on concerns about leaving the single market for goods and services. A final ruling giving parliamentarians a say on launching the negotiations is likely to be welcomed by markets.

  • There are other complications

    The court could also signal what role, if any, the devolved assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should play in the process of triggering Article 50. Voters in Northern Ireland and Scotland backed remaining in the EU, while those in England and Wales supported Brexit. The Scottish administration has threatened to push for another independence referendum should it decide that Scotland’s interests are not being taken into account.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2017/01/23/5-things-to-watch-from-the-u-k-supreme-courts-brexit-ruling/

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Prime Minister Theresa May will learn on Tuesday whether parliament must agree to the triggering of Britain’s exit from the European Union — UK Supreme Court will give its ruling at 9:30 a.m. (0930 GMT)

January 24, 2017

Live: May Corbyn Miller

Comment:In Britain and France, the Left faces doom: it cannot understand the age of Brexit  

Reuters

By Michael Holden and William James | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May will learn on Tuesday whether parliament must agree to the triggering of Britain’s exit from the European Union, potentially giving lawmakers who oppose her plans a chance to amend or hinder her Brexit vision.

The UK Supreme Court will give its ruling at 9:30 a.m. (0930 GMT) in a landmark case on whether May can use executive powers known as known as “royal prerogative” to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and begin two years of divorce talks.

Challengers, led by investment manager Gina Miller and backed by the Scottish government and others, say under Britain’s unwritten constitution May must first get lawmakers’ approval as leaving the EU will strip Britons of rights they were granted by parliament.

That view was backed by London’s High Court, prompting the government to appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the land.

If May wins the case, she can follow her planned timetable for invoking Article 50 by the end of March. If she loses – a more likely eventuality according to legal experts – she will probably need to bring in a parliamentary bill that will open up the Brexit process to scrutiny from lawmakers.

The case has attracted huge attention from markets, with investors hoping parliament will temper moves towards a “hard Brexit”, and it has again brought to the fore some of the ugly divisions among Britons produced by last June’s referendum.

Brexit supporters have cast the legal battle as an attempt by a pro-EU establishment to thwart the referendum result after Britons voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU, with judges denounced as “enemies of the people” and Miller receiving death threats and a torrent of online abuse.

For the first time, all 11 judges of the Supreme Court sat on the panel for a four-day hearing in December, and David Neuberger, the president of the Supreme Court, said the issue was not about overturning the referendum result but how it should be legally implemented.

He will read out a short summary of the case with the verdict in a statement lasting little more than five minutes.

BREXIT PLANS

Last week May set out her stall for negotiations, promising a clean break with the world’s largest trading block as part of a 12-point plan to focus on global free trade deals, setting a course for a so-called “hard Brexit”.

Some investors and those who backed the “remain” campaign hope that lawmakers, most of whom wanted to stay in the EU, will force May to seek a deal which prioritises access to the European single market of 500 million people, or potentially even block Brexit altogether.

Analysts said sterling GBP=D4 would likely be lifted by a ruling against the government, though its gains would be limited as that outcome has already been largely priced in.

“I still think there is a lot to fight for,” public relations executive Roland Rudd, who heads the Open Britain group that wants to keep ties with the EU as close as possible, told Reuters last week.

“The prime minister has articulated her early view about the direction of travel, but how we get there, in what form and how it finally gets driven, is all up for discussion.”

While some in parliament remain strongly opposed to the path set by May, the main opposition Labour Party has said it would not block Article 50, and parliament’s House of Commons overwhelmingly backed a motion backing her timetable, in a non-binding vote in December.

“Given the strong vote in the Commons, we would certainly be hopeful that the March 31 deadline can be achieved,” a source from May’s Conservative party told Reuters.

Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would seek to amend any bill to ensure parliament can hold May to account. But he has also said he would not seek to delay triggering Article 50.

The small Liberal Democrat Party and Scottish nationalists, who are adamantly opposed to May’s Brexit plans, are likely to take the chance to cause difficulties for the government.

Further problems could lie in the unelected House of Lords upper chamber, with Liberal Democrat peers expected to try to block the bill. However, the government remains confident it will be passed.

While the thrust of the Supreme Court case centres on whether the British parliament has to give its assent, the judges also heard arguments from the Scottish government and lawyers for Northern Irish challengers that Britain’s devolved assemblies must give their approval too.

Should the court agree, an outcome ministers believe is unlikely, an ongoing political crisis in Northern Ireland could derail May’s timetable, following the collapse of the province’s power-sharing government.

Scotland’s parliament, with a nationalist administration, is also strongly opposed to Brexit.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)