The British government’s plan for leaving the European Unionwas thrown into uncertainty on Thursday after the High Court ruled that Parliament must give its approval before the process can begin.

The court’s decision seemed likely to slow — but not halt — the British withdrawal from the bloc, a step approved by nearly 52 percent of voters in a June referendum.

Nevertheless, the court’s decision was a significant blow to Prime Minister Theresa May. She had planned to begin the legal steps for leaving the European Union by the end of March, and to prepare for the negotiations over Britain’s exit mostly behind closed doors.

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