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Will Brexit happen? Here's what we know after today's High Court ruling

Today, the High Court said Britain can’t leave the EU until parliament votes for it to be so.

A HIGH COURT ruling that the British government cannot begin divorce proceedings from the European Union without parliamentary approval has added further confusion to the bewildering implications of Brexit.

Here are key things known about the Brexit process, and the issues that remain shrouded in doubt.

What we know

- Britain will leave the EU -

Britain Brexit Lawsuit Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office reacted to the court’s decision by stressing the “government is determined to respect the result of the referendum” while opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he “respects the decision of the British people”, despite nearly all his parliamentary party members being against Brexit.

The ruling allows lawmakers, technically, to delay indefinitely the triggering of Article 50, which starts the break-up process, but such a move would be highly unlikely given the weight of public opinion.

- UK plans immigration curbs -

Britain Europe Migrants Young migrants get off a bus as they arrive at Lunar House, which houses the headquarters of UK Visas and Immigration in Croydon, south London, Source: Matt Dunham

May last month insisted that Britain would no longer accept the free movement of people to and from the EU on Brussels’ terms, and also pledged to repatriate legal powers.

“We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again and we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,” she told her Conservative Party’s conference.

- Economy defies expectations -

BoE quarterly Inflation Report press conference Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Confounding economists, Britain’s economy has grown solidly since the June referendum, household spending has grown faster than expected, while the housing market has remained resilient.

“For households, the signs of an economic slowdown are notable by their absence,” Bank of England chief Mark Carney said today while announcing an upward revision of growth predictions for next year.

What we don’t know

- Parliament not sure to vote -

The government immediately announced it would challenge the High Court ruling, taking the case to the Supreme Court early next month. If successful, the government will be able to trigger Article 50 as planned, without a parliamentary vote.

- Timing of Article 50 -

May has said she wants to trigger Article 50 between the New Year and the end of March, but the High Court ruling opens the possibility of lengthy parliamentary debates and complications in enacting legislation.

However, May insisted that the government remained committed to its deadline, despite the ruling.

- ‘Soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit -

May has revealed little about what Britain will ask for during Brexit negotiations, but her vow to curb immigration and repatriate legal powers suggested she favoured a “hard Brexit”, which would mean Britain leaving the EU’s single market.

Japanese carmaker Nissan’s recent announcement that it would continue to invest in its British plant – due to government assurances – led to speculation that the government was seeking an industrial sector-by-sector trade deal.

Pro-EU politicians have demanded that they get a say on the negotiating terms, and could use the High Court ruling as a basis for demanding more information on the government’s strategy and a softer stance in return for approving Article 50.

- Result of a parliamentary vote -

Ahead of the referendum, pro-EU lawmakers outnumbered pro-Brexit counterparts by more than three to one, and they could easily frustrate the government’s plans to trigger Article 50.

But it remains to be seen whether enough MPs will be prepared to defy the will of their constituents and vote against the government.

- An early election? -

May could decide to call an early general election and expose pro-EU MPs – many of whom lead constituencies that voted for Brexit – to public opinion.

Bookmakers slashed the odds of a 2017 general election to 2/1.

- Long-term economic prospects -

While short-term economic data is encouraging, Carney announced that growth forecasts had been downgraded for 2018, when business investment and uncertainty are expected to bite.

The court case is “an example of the uncertainty that will characterise this process”, he warned.

Critics point out that Britain is at least two and a half years away from actually leaving the EU, when any new trade, immigration and other arrangements would come into force.

- © AFP 2016

More: High Court says UK parliament must have vote on starting Brexit

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