A senior EU official has said cabinet minister David Davis told him the British Parliament will be involved in triggering Brexit talks, effectively conceding defeat in the legal case the Government is fighting over the issue.
The European Parliament's chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said Mr Davis made the admission at a meeting in Strasbourg.
It comes despite government officials preparing an appeal in the Supreme Court, in a bid to push ahead with Brexit talks without Parliament’s approval.
Former Belgian prime minister Mr Verhofstadt also said Brexit talks should be concluded quickly so that the UK can leave the EU before mid-2019.
Mr Davis saw the EU politician amid a series of meetings with his counterparts in the European Commission and European Parliament before formal discussions on the UK’s departure begin in March next year.
After their appointment, Mr Verhofstadt said Mr Davis told him the British Parliament "will be involved" in triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which officially launches Brexit talks.
The Government is still planning to fight an appeal at the Supreme Court, against a High Court decision forcing Theresa May to allow Parliament to vote on triggering Article 50. Ms May had wanted to take the decision to invoke the Article herself, using royal prerogative powers.
But Mr Verhofstadt’s comments suggest ministers are now resigned to losing the case. Whitehall insiders are also said to be already preparing legislation for Parliament to vote on.
The Belgian also said: "We agreed on the need that this process needs to start as early as possible and needs to finish, in any case, before the next European elections [in 2019]."
At a hearing in September, Mr Davis was asked about comments by Verhofstadt on the need for Britain to accept free movement of labour to stay in the single market. Davis responded: "Get thee behind me, Satan."
Today Mr Davis told journalists after the meeting that Mr Verhofstadt is a "very nice man" and that their first meeting was a "good start".
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