Remainers' hopes dashed as May heads for Brexit without vote
Published 27/08/2016 | 02:30
Theresa May will not hold a parliamentary vote on Brexit before opening negotiations to formally trigger Britain's withdrawal from the EU.
Opponents of Brexit claim that, because the EU referendum result is advisory, it must be approved by a vote in the House of Commons before Article 50 - the formal mechanism to leave the EU - is triggered.
However, in a move which will cheer Eurosceptics, it is believed the prime minister will invoke Article 50 without a vote in parliament. It had been suggested - by Tony Blair, and Owen Smith, the Labour leadership candidate, among others - that Remain-supporting MPs could use a vote to stop Brexit.
But sources say that because Mrs May believes that "Brexit means Brexit" she will not offer opponents the opportunity to stall Britain's withdrawal from the EU.
A Downing Street source said: "The prime minister has been absolutely clear that the British public have voted and now she will get on with delivering Brexit."
Mrs May has consulted government lawyers, who have told the prime minister she has the executive power to invoke Article 50 and begin the formal process of exiting the European Union without a vote.
Her decision will come as a blow to Remain campaigners, who had been hoping to use parliament to delay Brexit or halt it entirely.
A majority of MPs campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU at the last election. The House of Lords is also overwhelmingly in favour of Britain remaining in the union, meaning that obtaining formal parliamentary approval for Brexit could take years.
Mr Smith last week set out plans to block Article 50 in parliament. He said: "Under my leadership, Labour won't give the Tories a blank cheque.
"We will vote in parliament to block any attempt to invoke Article 50 until Theresa May commits to a second referendum or a general election on whatever EU exit deal emerges at the end of the process. I hope Jeremy [Corbyn] will support me in such a move."
Mr Blair made a similar suggestion earlier this year, as he proposed that Britain should be open to the idea of holding a second referendum.
The former prime minister said: "If, as we start to see the details emerge of what this new world we are going into looks like, what are the practical effects, then parliament has got a role. The country should carry on being engaged in this debate."
A group of lawyers has mounted a legal challenge in an attempt to force Mrs May to hold a parliamentary vote. (© Daily Telegraph, London)