Tory MPs plan to force vote on starting Brexit

They want to hold backbench debate next week in bid to fulfil ruling that Parliament must have say on exit process

LONDON • Conservative party MPs in Britain are reported to be drawing up plans to force a vote in the House of Commons on triggering the Brexit process.

This is to stop Parliament from being dictated to by the Supreme Court, which is set to hear the government's appeal against a landmark ruling that it must seek Parliament's approval to start the process.

The court has set aside four days for all its 11 judges to hear the appeal, which could delay Britain's withdrawal from the European Union (EU), starting on Dec 5. They will deliver their judgment "probably in the new year", according to a court statement.

Mrs May visiting Someshwara Temple in Bengaluru on Tuesday. She is in India to ready the ground for post-Brexit trade deals. While pledging to make it easier to do business with the country, she is unwilling to ease visa restrictions, a key demand fr
Mrs May visiting Someshwara Temple in Bengaluru on Tuesday. She is in India to ready the ground for post-Brexit trade deals. While pledging to make it easier to do business with the country, she is unwilling to ease visa restrictions, a key demand from New Delhi. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

London's Daily Telegraph said yesterday that a group of Conservative eurosceptic MPs wants a backbench debate next week, which they hope - followed by a vote on triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - will satisfy a High Court ruling last week that Parliament must have a say on the decision.

Mr David Davis, the govern- ment's Brexit minister, said this week that Parliament could vote on a Bill authorising Article 50 before the start of the Supreme Court hearing.

The Telegraph reported Sir Gerald Howarth, a eurosceptic Tory MP backing the plans, as saying: "The public cannot be left in limbo. Industry and commerce want certainty."

A government source told The Telegraph that a vote in the House of Commons could help its case in the Supreme Court, but ministers could not endorse the debate because it could be seen as pressuring the justices.

Separately, the Scottish government has begun its own legal action at the Supreme Court to try to frustrate plans for Brexit.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her government will argue that the Scottish Parliament should have to consent to the triggering of Article 50.

"Let me be clear - I recognise and respect the right of England and Wales to leave the European Union. This is not an attempt to veto that process," Ms Sturgeon said earlier, according to Agence France-Presse.

"But the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland and the national parliament of Scotland cannot be brushed aside as if they do not matter."

Ms Sturgeon's left-wing secessionist Scottish National Party has threatened a fresh vote on independence from the rest of the UK if Scotland cannot keep its ties with the EU.

DON'T IGNORE SCOTLAND

Let me be clear - I recognise and respect the right of England and Wales to leave the European Union. This is not an attempt to veto that process... But the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland and the national parliament of Scotland cannot be brushed aside as if they do not matter.

SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER NICOLA STURGEON

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "It is a matter for the Scottish government whether they apply to intervene in this case or not."

The government insists it will stick to its timetable for Brexit whatever the outcome of the court case, a message relayed by Prime Minister Theresa May in phone calls with EU leaders last Friday.

The Labour opposition has changed its position three times in three days on whether it would support the start of the Brexit process without any conditions.

The prospect of Labour voting down attempts to start the Brexit process is fuelling speculation that Mrs May might opt for a general election next year.

Mrs May said on Tuesday during a visit to India that there was a "world of opportunities" for post- Brexit Britain in India, according to Agence France-Presse.

However, she said that Britain would not need to ease visa restrictions - a key demand from New Delhi, but a contentious domestic issue - in order to reach a trade deal with India once her country has left the EU.

Mrs May, who earned a reputation for being tough on immigration as Britain's interior minister, will likely stand her ground on visas, with anger at immigration levels a crucial factor in the outcome of the June 23 referendum.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Tory MPs plan to force vote on starting Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe