The UK remains on track to begin leaving the European Union in spring despite a legal ruling forcing the government to seek the approval of MPs, Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted yesterday.
Mr Davis said Article 50 would be triggered by April next year regardless of the outcome of an appeal by government lawyers to the Supreme Court, which is expected to be heard next month.
The Brexit Secretary’s update to the House of Commons came as a spokesman for the Prime Minister refused to deny reports that legislation to give MPs and peers a say on Article 50 was already being drawn up by civil servants.
Mr Davis told MPs that whatever the Supreme Court decides, the government remains on course to deliver on the timetable promised by the Theresa May.
He told MPs: “It’s likely that any hearing will be scheduled in the Supreme Court in early December. We would hope the judgment would be provided soon after. This timetable remains consistent with our aim to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.”
Mr Davis attacked MPs who have called for a second referendum to approve the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal, claiming they were attempting to “thwart” the will of voters.
He said a second vote would encourage the EU to impose “impossibly difficult conditions” in order to convince voters in the UK to change their minds. “In other words, the whole approach is designed to wreck the negotiations,” he said.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer claimed the government’s approach was “unravelling” in an “ugly way”, referring to criticism of the High Court judges who delivered the ruling on Article 50.
Sir Keir said the government could set out its position on key issues such as the UK’s membership of the single market and customs union without compromising Brexit negotiations.
Labour has made clear it will seek to force the government to lay out its plan.