LONDON • Britain will not revoke the Article 50 legal process that started the two-year Brexit negotiating period, Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament yesterday.
"The government made clear that we have no intention of revoking that, we will be delivering on the vote of the British people," she said.
Asked if the government had taken legal advice on whether it was possible to reverse the process of Britain's departure from the European Union by revoking Article 50, Mrs May said it was government policy not to comment on the legal advice it receives.
She said talks with the EU on leaving the bloc needed to be focused on the long-term future relationship between the two after a limited implementation period. "We should concentrate our negotiating time and capital on what really matters: the future long-term relationship we will have with the EU after this temporary period ends."
Mrs May said her negotiators had made progress on the first phase of talks, tackling the rights of expatriates and the border with EU member Ireland, and that she was determined to secure a new partnership with the other 27 members of the wealthy political and trade bloc.
"Achieving that partnership will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU," she told the raucous session. "And as we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic we will receive a positive response."
But even before she delivered the speech, an EU spokesman hit back in Brussels, saying "the ball is entirely in the UK court for the rest to happen".
The EU and Britain kicked off the fifth round of Brexit discussions yesterday, the last before European leaders meet on Oct 19 to decide whether to move on to trade talks.
The prognosis was grim, with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker having warned that "miracles" were needed this week to make enough progress to get a positive decision at the summit.
Mrs May was also criticised by the opposition for failing to offer any clarity on what the future relationship will look like.
"Now the reality for this Tory (Conservative) government is beginning to bite, but if things do not improve, the reality may soon begin to bite for the jobs and living standards of the people of this country," said Mr Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party.
In a separate meeting, Mrs May told business leaders that they should treat a two-year transition period after Brexit as assured.
The government said yesterday that Britain will prepare to implement a Customs, sales tax and excise regime that could operate in the event that no deal is reached with the EU. The government document on plans for Customs and trade said Britain believed it was prudent to prepare for every possible outcome and had set out its plans in a new piece of legislation.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE