The U.K. Supreme Court’s ruling over who has the authority to deliver Brexit signals a potentially tumultuous period of legal disputes for the British government.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will learn at 9.30 a.m GMT on Tuesday whether parliament must agree to the triggering of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union (EU) in a landmark case with significant political ramifications.
“The Supreme Court will be keen to deliver a unanimous verdict due to the political significance of the case, which means that it will probably seek to find the lowest common denominator. However, a stronger ruling could have implications for the government’s powers and those of the devolved parliaments,” Larissa Brunner, analyst for Western Europe at think-tank Oxford Analytica, told CNBC in an email on Monday.
The Supreme Court heard evidence from the Scottish and Welsh governments in December that the triggering of Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal step required to begin the process of exiting the bloc, would impact the competency of these devolved authorities.
Should the Supreme Court agree, May would require parliamentary consent from the Scottish and Welsh assemblies too. Given Scotland’s overwhelming opposition to Brexit, the result would almost certainly go against the government. In fact, a constitutional crisis would be the likely outcome, according to a Deutsche Bank research note.
20% chance of snap general election
Analysts from the German lender projected a 50 percent likelihood the British government loses its appeal but wins parliamentary support for Brexit. However, it also forecast a 20 percent probability May loses the appeal as well as Brexit backing from parliament which could cause a snap general election.
The British government has more legal hurdles in the pipeline too. A Dublin court is due to hear whether Article 50 could be reversed while two campaigners have filed a lawsuit claiming May does not have the power to take Britain out of the single market. Theresa May confirmed the government’s desire to take Britain out of the single market in the most important speech of her premiership last week.
“The court case in Dublin, which looks at whether the UK could reverse its decision to leave after triggering Article 50 – for example if it is not satisfied with the deal agreed with the EU – is interesting from a legal point of view, but unlikely to be of much political significance,” Brunner said.
“There is currently no indication that there is any political will, either on the government’s part or among the electorate, to stay in the EU,” she concluded.