Theresa May tells EU Brexit not de­railed

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Theresa May has said she is “con­fi­dent” that the govern­ment will win its ap­peal against a High Court rul­ing on trig­ger­ing Brexit talks.

She told Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker and Ger­many’s An­gela Merkel she was com­mit­ted to trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 by March 2017.

Three judges ruled that she can­not do so with­out Par­lia­ment’s sup­port.

It comes as MP Stephen Phillips said he was quit­ting due to “ir­rec­on­cil­able” dif­fer­ences with the govern­ment.

Mr Phillips has been among Tory MPs push­ing for Par­lia­ment to be con­sulted over the UK’s ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy, ac­cus­ing min­is­ters of try­ing to “ig­nore their views”.

The govern­ment is ap­peal­ing against Thurs­day’s rul­ing to the Supreme Court - all 11 judges are due to hear the case in early De­cem­ber.

The prime min­is­ter called Mr Juncker and Mrs Merkel yes­ter­day morn­ing. Her spokesman said she told them the govern­ment was “dis­ap­pointed” at Thurs­day’s court rul­ing but that “the fo­cus of the govern­ment is on the Supreme Court case. We are con­fi­dent of win­ning that case and pro­ceed­ing with Ar­ti­cle 50”.

If it loses that ap­peal, it is ex­pected that the govern­ment will have to pub­lish some form of new law for MPs - and the House of Lords - to vote on.

But for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter Nick Clegg - now the Lib Dems’ Europe spokesman - said his party would seek to join with oth­ers “in both the House of Com­mons and the House of Lords to amend the leg­is­la­tion” to tell the govern­ment to pur­sue a “soft Brexit” that would keep the UK within the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket.

He told Ra­dio 4’s To­day that he also wanted to give the pub­lic “a say” on the fi­nal deal after EU ne­go­ti­a­tions are com­plete.

The govern­ment wants to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 by the end of March 2017 so any leg­is­la­tion would need to be ap­proved by then if the timetable is not to be pushed back.

“These are fun­da­men­tal is­sues which, of course, as part of this process need to be brought be­fore MPs, and MPs should feel free to scru­ti­nise them,” he said.

“And if they be­lieve that the govern­ment is pur­su­ing an un­nec­es­sar­ily hard, in other words an un­nec­es­sar­ily self-harm­ing ver­sion of Brexit, then of course MPs should be free to re­ject that.”

But for­mer Con­ser­va­tive cabi­net min­is­ter Theresa Vil­liers told the pro­gramme: “Frankly I think it would be a con­sti­tu­tional out­rage if un­elected Lib­eral Demo­crat peers were to stand in the way of im­ple­ment­ing the clear re­sult of a ref­er­en­dum in which 33 mil­lion peo­ple took part.”

Thurs­day’s High Court rul­ing found that the govern­ment could

not trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty alone, with­out the back­ing of Par­lia­ment - which would re­quire pub­lish­ing leg­is­la­tion to be de­bated by the Com­mons and the Lords.

The govern­ment has ar­gued that it can­not “show its hand in de­tail” ahead of ne­go­ti­a­tions with 27 other EU mem­ber states, de­spite calls from MPs to clar­ify her plans.

For Labour, shadow for­eign sec­re­tary Emily Thorn­berry said that while she thought “that in the end Par­lia­ment will vote for Ar­ti­cle 50 to be trig­gered” the judge­ment meant the govern­ment would have to give MPs “some ba­sic terms on which they are go­ing to ne­go­ti­ate Brexit”.

And Con­ser­va­tive peer Lady Wheatcroft said she was will­ing to table an amend­ment to fu­ture leg­is­la­tion to de­lay the Brexit process, say­ing it was “only right to de­lay trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 un­til we have a clearer idea of what it ac­tu­ally en­tails”.

How­ever Labour MP Lisa Nandy told Ques­tion Time: “Bri­tain is leav­ing the EU and whether or not Par­lia­ment has to vote to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50, this will hap­pen be­cause, in re­al­ity, there are no more than a hand­ful of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who would seek to block that de­ci­sion.”

The prime min­is­ter’s spokes­woman has played down sug­ges­tions that Mrs May may call an early gen­eral elec­tion if she can­not get Par­lia­men­tary sup­port, say­ing that the prime min­is­ter be­lieved “there shouldn’t be an elec­tion un­til 2020 and that re­mains her view”.

The govern­ment had ar­gued it could use an­cient pre­rog­a­tive pow­ers to give ef­fect “to the will of the peo­ple”.

But the three judges look­ing at the case found there was no con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion of the royal pre­rog­a­tive be­ing used in leg­is­la­tion re­lat­ing to the EU.

They added that trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 would fun­da­men­tally change UK peo­ple’s rights - and that the govern­ment can­not change or do away with rights un­der UK law un­less Par­lia­ment gives it au­thor­ity to do so.

Writ­ing in Fri­day’s Daily Tele­graph, UKIP leader Nigel Farage called the court’s de­ci­sion a “great be­trayal” and said “the power of the prime min­is­ter to act on the man­date given by 17.4 mil­lion vot­ers has been snatched away.”

He added that “the es­tab­lish­ment bet­ter be ready for the colos­sal elec­toral con­se­quences that will fol­low” any con­tin­ued op­po­si­tion to the ref­er­en­dum re­sult.

The UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the Euro­pean Union in a ref­er­en­dum on 23 June.

The EU’s other 27 mem­ber states have said ne­go­ti­a­tions about the terms of the UK’s exit due to last two years - can­not be­gin un­til Ar­ti­cle 50 has been in­voked.

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