26 January 2017
The UK government promised to introduce legislation to trigger Article 50 to leave the European Union “within days” after the Supreme Court in London ruled ministers must get parliamentary approval to start the Brexit process.
The court battle was brought by opponents on the grounds that parliament was sovereign and must approve Article 50 being invoked, despite the outcome of June’s referendum, which resulted in a 52-48 per cent vote in favour of leaving the EU. Ministers had argued that they had the power to pull out of a trade deal without a vote in either the Commons or the Lords. Shortly after Tuesday’s ruling, Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs that the government intended to stick to its target of serving notice to leave the EU by the end of March.
“There can be no turning back. The point of no return was passed on June 23 last year,” Mr Davis said, adding that a “most straightforward” government bill would be presented to parliament in the coming days. “The purpose of this bill is simply to give the government the power to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union. That’s what the British people voted for and it’s what they would expect,” he said. “Parliament will rightly scrutinise and debate this legislation. But I trust no-one will seek to make it a vehicle for attempts to thwart the will of the people or frustrate or delay the process of exiting the European Union.”
That, though, might be wishful thinking with both Scottish Nationalists and Liberal Democrats keen to see a second referendum on a final Brexit deal and with the main opposition Labour Party wanting to see the UK retain access to the EU’s single market. Opposition in the House of Lords could also delay passage of the bill.