Liz Truss has said Article 50 is “irrevocable”, meaning there would be no prospect of Britain staying in the European Union after triggering negotiations on Brexit.
The Justice Secretary, who also serves as Lord Chancellor, also denied Article 50 was a “legal issue” – despite it being a legal mechanism enshrined in British law.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Ms Truss said: “People can take cases to courts [but] my understanding is it’s irrevocable and that when we press the button that will go forward.
“But regardless of that situation, this is the settled will of the British people and I think people who are trying to fight yesterday’s battle need to join us in making a success of global Britain.”
Her claims are a direct contradiction of the views of Lord Kerr, the former UK diplomat who, in his role as Secretary General of the European Convention, wrote what became the Lisbon Treaty, including Article 50.
Mr Kerr said last year: “It is not irrevocable – you can change your mind while the process is going on.
“During that period, if a country were to decide actually we don’t want to leave after all, everybody would be very cross about it being a waste of time.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
“They might try to extract a political price but legally they couldn't insist that you leave.”
Ms Truss also appeared confused over the fact that Article 50 is a legal issue.
Asked about the Government’s legal advice on whether triggering Article 50 could be reversed, Ms Truss said: “This is not a legal question, this is a political question.
“The British people have voted to leave the European Union. All of those arguments were aired in the referendum last year.”
Presenter Marr pointed out to the Lord Chancellor that Article 50 was, in fact, a legal matter.
Ms Truss then replied: “As Lord Chancellor, I do not make legal decisions. Those are made in the courts. The judges make the decisions. That’s why we have an independent judiciary.”
The Justice Secretary also attacked some senior Labour figures, including former prime minister Tony Blair and former Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, for trying to hold up Brexit.
“People who are trying to fight yesterday’s battle need to join us in making a success of global Britain”, she said. “The Prime Minister’s set out a very clear vision and that’s what we need to get on with.”
Ms Truss said in the case of a second EU referendum she would vote for Brexit, despite previously having backed the Remain campaign.
“I would vote for ‘out’ – absolutely”, she said.
“It’s the settled will of the British people, we now are on an irrevocable path to leaving the European Union, we have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and times have changed.”