Theresa May will not hold a Parliamentary vote on Brexit
By Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor
27 August 2016 • 8:13am
Theresa May will not hold a parliamentary vote on Brexit before opening negotiations to formally trigger Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, The Telegraph has learned.
Opponents of Brexit claim that because the EU referendum result is advisory it must be approved by a vote in the Commons before Article 50 – the formal mechanism to leave the EU – is triggered.
However, in a move which will cheer Eurosceptics, The Telegraph has learned that Mrs May will invoke Article 50 without a vote in Parliament
It had been suggested – by Tony Blair, the former Labour Prime Minister, and Owen Smith, the Labour leadership candidate, among others – that Remain-supporting MPs could use a Parliamentary 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 in Parliament.
Her decision will come as a blow to Remain campaigners, who had been hoping to use Parliament to delay or halt Brexit entirely.
Owen Smith says Jeremy Corbyn is ‘happy’ about Brexit Play! 00:57
The majority of MPs in the Commons, a total of around 480, campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union at the last election.
The House of Lords is also overwhelmingly in favour of Britain staying in the EU, 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 the EU exit deal emerges at the end of the process. I hope Jeremy will support me in such a move.”
Mr Blair made a similar suggestion earlier this year as he suggested that Britain should be open to the idea of holding a second referendum.
He 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 a bid 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.
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 here 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.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, has said that the Government needs to “get on” with triggering Article 50 amid signs of increasing splits among Conservative MPs.
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