Brexit: Theresa May 'to challenge Parliament to defy will of the people’ if Article 50 case lost at Supreme Court

'Theresa May has made clear that people bringing this legal action over Article 50 must not be allowed to thwart the will of the people'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Saturday 03 December 2016 10:06
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There is said to be an expectation among ministers that the Prime Minister will lose the upcoming Supreme Court appeal over Article 50
There is said to be an expectation among ministers that the Prime Minister will lose the upcoming Supreme Court appeal over Article 50

Theresa May will reportedly challenge MPs and peers to “defy the will of the people” if she loses a crucial Supreme Court battle on the right to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

It comes as Government lawyers prepare to present their case for triggering the untested mechanism of leaving the EU without an act of Parliament. The case, which will begin on Monday, is expected to reach a judgement in January and risks derailing the Prime Minister’s pledge to trigger Article 50 before the end of March.

According to The Daily Telegraph ministers have said there is an “expectation” they will lose the case – as they did in the High Court – and that the PM is already preparing to introduce a short three-line bill to allow MPs a vote on Article 50. But, the newspaper adds, allies of Ms May are “confident” MPs “would not dare” vote the legislation down.

“Theresa May has made clear that people bringing this legal action over Article 50 must not be allowed to thwart the will of the people … she will take exactly the same approach in the Commons when she addresses MPs.”

It is expected that around 80 MPs will vote against the legislation in the Commons. On Friday the newly elected Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney, who overturned her Conservative rival’s 23,000 majority, became the latest to go on record saying she will vote against Article 50. Ms Olney said the result in Richmond Park gave her a mandate to vote against Brexit.

Newly elected Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney celebrates her win on Friday. She has said she will vote against the triggering of Article 50 

One law professor earlier this week predicted that the PM is heading for an 11-0 defeat when the justices in the Supreme Court reach a decision. Professor Michael Zander QC said the High Court judges who ruled Ms May could not act alone when triggering the Article 50 notice had given a “unanimous and very strong” decision.

He wrote: “I would be surprised if the Attorney General and his team of supporting QCs and other lawyers have given ministers reason to hope that there was any great hope of the [High Court’s] unanimous and very strong decision being reversed.

“The appeal is to be heard in December – for the first time with all 11 [Supreme Court] justices sitting ... In my view, the Government could be looking at losing 11-0.”

A Government spokesperson told The Independent: “The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum provided for by an Act of Parliament. The Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. The Government’s case is that it does have legal power to trigger Article 50 on the timetable set out by the Prime Minister. We do not believe another act of Parliament is necessary.”

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