May heads for Brexit without vote by MPs

Theresa May will not hold a parliamentary vote on Brexit before opening negotiations to formally trigger Britain\'s withdrawal from the European Union.

Published: 27th August 2016 08:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th August 2016 08:05 AM   |  A+A-


Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street to attend her first Prime Ministers Questions at the House of Parliament in London, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. | AP

LONDON: Theresa May will not hold a parliamentary vote on Brexit before opening negotiations to formally trigger Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Opponents of Brexit claim that because the EU referendum result is advisory it must be approved by a vote in the House of Commons before Article 50 - the formal mechanism to leave the EU - is triggered.

However, in a move which will cheer Eurosceptics, it is believed the Prime Minister will invoke Article 50 without a vote in Parliament. It had been suggested - by Tony Blair, and Owen Smith, the Labour leadership candidate, among others - that Remain-supporting MPs could use a vote to stop Brexit.

But sources say that because Mrs May believes that "Brexit means Brexit" she will not offer opponents the opportunity to stall Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

A Downing Street source said: "The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that the British public have voted and now she will get on with delivering Brexit."

Mrs May has consulted government lawyers, who have told the Prime Minister she has the executive power to invoke Article 50 and begin the formal process of exiting the European Union without a vote.

Her decision will come as a blow to Remain campaigners, who had been hoping to use Parliament to delay Brexit or halt it entirely.

A majority of MPs, a total of around 480, campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU at the last election.

The House of Lords is also overwhelmingly in favour of Britain remaining in the union, meaning that obtaining formal parliamentary approval for Brexit could take years.

Mr Smith last week set out plans to block Article 50 in Parliament. He said: "Under my leadership, Labour won't give the Tories a blank cheque.

"We will vote in Parliament to block any attempt to invoke Article 50 until Theresa May commits to a second referendum or a general election on whatever EU exit deal emerges at the end of the process. I hope Jeremy [Corbyn] will support me in such a move."

Mr Blair made a similar suggestion earlier this year, as he proposed that Britain should be open to the idea of holding a second referendum.

The former prime minister said: "If, as we start to see the details emerge of what this new world we are going into looks like, what are the practical effects, then Parliament has got a role. The country should carry on being engaged in this debate, it should carry on expressing its view."

A group of lawyers has mounted a legal challenge in an attempt to force Mrs May to hold a parliamentary vote.

The case, which will be heard in the High Court in October, argues that Article 50 cannot be invoked until the European Communities Act of 1972 is repealed.

However, government lawyers are confident that they will win, paving the way for Article 50 to be triggered at the beginning of next year, which could see Britain leave the European Union in 2019.

Sir Bill Cash, a Eurosceptic Conservative MP and leading Brexit campaigner, said: "It sounds emphatic and that's what we want to hear.

"There were people who are threatening to try and stop Brexit. The bottom line is that there is nothing that could possibly be allowed to stand in its way. Everyone in Europe is expecting it, the decision has been taken by the British people and that's it. Let's get on with it."

It came as a senior Czech official warned Britain that unless it triggers Article 50 soon "the goodwill that still exists will start to disappear". Tomas Prouza, the Czech secretary of state for EU affairs, issued the warning following a meeting of leaders from the Visegrad Four - Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics - and Angela Merkel in Warsaw yesterday.

The UN has been accused of trying to shut down political debate in Britain after it blamed MPs for fuelling a rise in hate crimes around the EU referendum. A report by the UN said politicians had "failed to condemn" racist abuse and used "divisive" and "anti-immigrant" rhetoric during the campaign. Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, dismissed the suggestion and said the UN was attempting to close down "honest debate".


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