Theresa May critic says Brexit parliament role 'essential'

LONDON (AFP) - One of Theresa May's harshest backbench critics said Tuesday (Jan 24) she would not block start of Brexit negotiations in parliament, but warned the prime minister should not expect a free ride.

"This is the start of a process that's going to take several years," former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, a Conservative MP who has campaigned to retain strong ties to the European Union, told AFP.

She added: "I would say to the government - to avoid any difficulties at the end of the process, in terms of signing off on a final deal, parliamentary involvement and security throughout the two-year process is absolutely essential."

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that May's Conservative government must gain the approval of lawmakers before beginning the Brexit process.

The prime minister has also promised parliament a vote on the final deal negotiated with EU leaders.

With the opposition Labour party in disarray, Conservative backbench MPs like Morgan have been at the forefront of fighting for continued ties to the bloc, particularly on the economy.

May confirmed last week that she would be seeking to pull Britain out of Europe's single market after Brexit, a choice Morgan described as "disappointing".

"But she has talked before about companies operating within the single market, access to the single market or replicating what we have now, the best bits, in a free trade agreement - all of that needs to be fleshed out as part of the negotiations," she said.

She added: "One of the issues that I think is still open for discussion is the customs union."

Morgan lost her job when May took office after the referendum and has been personally and politically critical about the premier and her apparent preference for a so-called "hard Brexit".

She made clear on Tuesday that she and other Conservative pro-European "insurgents", as she once dubbed them, will not block Article 50.

In the June referendum on EU membership, 52 per cent of Britons voted to leave the bloc - but 48 per cent voted to stay in.

"We owe the 16 million to ask some questions as well as honouring what the 17 million people did vote for," she said.