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.
“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.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies