U.K. Judge Says May Might Need Comprehensive Law to Start Brexit

  • Lady Hale was ‘simply presenting the argument,’ spokesman said
  • Supreme Court Judge ‘not offering a view’ on likely outcome

Theresa May

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Supreme Court Judge Brenda Hale said the U.K. may need “comprehensive” legislation to start the process of leaving the European Union, an indication that Brexit could be delayed.

QuickTake Brexit

Hale said during a speech in Kuala Lumpur, published on the Supreme Court’s web site, that parliament might need an extensive new law to replace the 1972 European Communities Act which governed Britain’s accession to the EU. Sky News reported that passing such legislation could take as long as two years.

Click here to read more about the legal can of worms Brexit has opened.

“Lady Hale was simply presenting the argument from both sides of the Article 50 appeal in an impartial way for an audience of law students,” a spokesman for the Supreme Court said by e-mail. “In no way was Lady Hale offering a view on what the likely outcome might be.”

The British government is appealing a High Court decision from earlier this month that Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t have the authority to trigger an EU exit without the backing of lawmakers, potentially threatening her pledge to start the process by the end of March.

The Supreme Court is due to rule in January. Lady Hale is one of eleven justices who will hear the legal challenge over Brexit set for Dec. 5. A spokeswoman for May declined to comment on the speech.

Though the main opposition Labour Party has said it won’t attempt to stop May invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty, the bloc’s exit mechanism, the government is concerned that the process of winning approval could tie its hands ahead of a two-year negotiation with the other 27 EU states.

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