British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday told European leaders that her March deadline for triggering Brexit negotiations “remains unchanged” despite a court ruling that she first needs parliament’s approval. May told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the “government’s planned timetable for notification of Article 50 remains unchanged”, during separate phone calls, according to a statement released by Downing Street.
She added that the government was confident of winning next month’s Supreme Court appeal against Thursday’s High Court ruling that her government does not have the power on its own to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally start the process.
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“The PM explained to both Chancellor Merkel and President Juncker that while the government was disappointed with the judgement, it had strong legal arguments ahead of the case moving to the Supreme Court,” the statement said. The decision raises the prospect of a protracted parliamentary debate before then – in a chamber that overwhelmingly opposed Brexit – although EU leaders themselves have urged a swift departure.
Lawmakers could also demand to know May’s negotiating strategy and seek to maintain stronger ties with the bloc before agreeing to invoke Article 50. Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg told BBC Radio today that he and other pro-EU lawmakers would “seek… to amend the legislation such that parliament would say to government it should pursue a soft Brexit, not a hard Brexit.”
Bookmakers have slashed the odds of a general election early next year, three years ahead of schedule, as May could decide to expose obstructive anti-Brexit lawmakers to the pressure of public opinion and take advantage of her Conservative Party’s huge polling lead.
In a sign of the likely parliamentary storms ahead, Conservative pro-Brexit lawmaker Stephen Phillips resigned as an MP on Friday, citing “irreconcilable policy differences with the current government”. The pound – which has tumbled to multi-year lows since the referendum – soared against the dollar and euro, standing at USD 1.2497 during afternoon trading in London.