Here’s something that may put a smile on the faces of indie film execs at the AFM this morning: The reality of a Brexit may be farther away than previously thought. On Thursday morning British time, the UK’s High Court ruled that its government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — the formal notification of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union — without a Parliamentary vote. The judgement, delivered by the Lord Chief Justice, said that “the most fundamental rule of the UK constitution is that Parliament is sovereign.”
In June, the UK voted to leave the EU by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%. That sent fear rolling through the film and television industry with concerns over what Britain’s future role would be. Having it as part of the EU offers benefits to global players and their access to European markets. The precipitous pound drop has also affected box office receipts for the U.S majors in the UK. On the positive side, it’s made Britain a much more economical place to shoot films and TV series.
Mid-morning trading was choppy as UK shares fell after the ruling was announced. The British pound rose, spiking above $1.24, a 1% increase against the dollar and the highest jump since August. It’s the first time the pound has broken above $1.24 in three weeks. At around 11:30 AM local, shares in ITV were up 1.72% and Sky was up .74%.
— Mark Broad (@markabroad) November 3, 2016
Today’s ruling is likely to slow the pace of — or potentially stop — the UK’s exit from the EU and comes as a particular blow to Prime Minister Theresa May, who had insisted the government alone would decide when to trigger Article 50, a move campaigners had called unconstitutional. Last month, May announced the process would be underway by the end of March 2017.
However, the government is appealing the ruling and ministers were given the go-ahead for a further hearing to take place, which is expected to happen in early December.
A government spokesperson said: “The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. And the government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. We will appeal this judgment.”
Unless it is overturned on appeal at Britain’s highest court, the supreme court, the ruling threatens to throw UK government’s plans for Brexit into turmoil as the process will be subject to full parliamentary control. However, reports indicate that it’s likely MPs would vote in favor of invoking Article 50, as Brexit had been backed by a majority of voters in the referendum.
— Judicial Office (@JudiciaryUK) November 3, 2016
Outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage, one of the main figureheads campaigning for Brexit in the run up to the referendum, told BBC Radio 5 that the country was headed for “a half Brexit.” He said: “I’m becoming increasingly worried. I see MPs from all parties saying, oh well, actually we should stay part of the single market, we should continue with our daily financial contributions. I think we could be at the beginning, with this ruling of a process where there is deliberate, wilful attempt by our political class to betray 17.4 million voters.”
Meanwhile, pro-Brexit Boris Johnson, who is now the Scretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, may have presaged today’s ruling when at an awards reception last night he said, “Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a titanic success of it.”