Theresa May accused of using Queen's power to push hard Brexit

The claim by Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft raises questions over whether Ms May will be able to pass Brexit laws thorugh the Lords

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A senior Tory peer has accused Theresa May of “using the royal prerogative” to decide on her own what Brexit will look like, without giving anyone else a say.  

Patience Wheatcroft said she had been left “confused” by Ms May’s conference speech, which saw the Prime Minister signal that immigration controls would trump gaining single market access in any Brexit deal.

She demanded that Parliament be given a say on the process and raised the prospect of a second election to decide the matter.

Her intervention is significant because to achieve Brexit Ms May will have to pass her “Great Repeal Bill”, ending the EU’s authority in Britain, through the Lords, where the Tories are already in a minority.      

Baroness Wheatcroft argued that while the people did say that they are unhappy with the current situation in the referendum, they had not said what they would like to see as an alternative.

She said: “I’m confused. I listen to what Ms May said yesterday and she wants to continue with free trade, she wants British business to have the benefits of the single market. I’m not sure we are going to have that and I’d like to know how we are going to proceed.

“It doesn’t feel very democratic to have one individual using the royal prerogative, deciding exactly when we’re going to commit to that momentous path.”

Theresa May on immigration in conference speech

Speaking on BBC radio, she added: “I certainly don’t think it will be the decision of one person alone. I think it should be Parliament…Parliament took us in to the EU and I think Parliament needs to be much clearer about the terms on which we are leaving.

“This is surely something for the sovereignty of Parliament to have a say in and not for the Prime Minister alone.” 

She said a second referendum is “obviously a possibility” or a general election, but that people needed to have a say on what was being offered for the future.

The baroness then said: “She is telling us what she would like, but she is not giving anybody a say on whether that is what they want or whether indeed it is possible.” 

The Independent reported yesterday how Ms May was already facing a backlash from Tory MPs and former ministers following her speech on the opening day of Tory conference.

The Prime Minister unveiled a far tougher stance than she has previously taken on EU withdrawal, and even directly attacked those who want a compromise deal to allow the UK single market access.

Pro-EU MPs have been urging Ms May to do everything possible to preserve access to the single market to the greatest degree possible, with many arguing for full access.

But speaking to delegates, the leader claimed the MPs are looking at things the “wrong way”. She said she wanted a Brexit deal to include cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism, to involve free trade and to give British companies the maximum freedom to operate in the single market. 

Then she went on: “But let me be clear. We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”

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