25th Oct 2016

British MPs battling for a say on Brexit

  • The government has "no authority or mandate to adopt a negotiating position without reference to the wishes of the house", an MP said. (Photo: House of Commons)

The British prime minister has turned down calls to allow MPs a say over the UK's Brexit negotiating position, but a rebellion is growing on the issue.

A spokesman for Theresa May said on Monday (10 October) that parliament would "of course … debate and scrutinise that process as it goes on".

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But he added that "a second vote, or a vote to second-guess the will of the British people is not an acceptable way forward".

Opposition Labour MPs had asked for an emergency debate to be held on the negotiating terms. The request was turned down by the House of Commons speaker.

"Negotiating secrecy won't wash as an excuse," Ed Miliband, the Labour leader at the last election, said in a Twitter message.

"The country has a right to know the government's Brexit strategy and parliament must vote on it."

Stephen Phillips, a Conservative MP who voted for the UK to leave the EU, said the government had “no authority or mandate to adopt a negotiating position without reference to the wishes of the house and those of the British people, expressed through their elected representatives”.

He added that EU "tyranny" had been replaced by "that of a government that apparently wishes to ignore the views of the house".

Brexit minister David Davis argued that the 23 June referendum had given a clear mandate, and that the government would "reject any attempt to hold up the process unduly, or any attempt to keep Britain in the EU by the back door".


But according to the Guardian, a group of Tory MPs is considering joining a legal challenge to be heard in the High Court this week to the government’s right to act without MPs' consent.

"There is so much at stake, and the process is moving so fast, that we cannot stand by the sidelines, we must do everything possible to ensure that parliament has a say,” a source close to the group of MPs told the newspaper.

Last month, in another case, government's lawyers argued that parliament's consent to launch EU exit talks was not required because the legislation that organised the EU referendum "did not prescribe steps which the government was required to make in the event of a leave vote".

Prime minister May said she would trigger article 50, the exit procedure, before the end of March next year and that control of immigration would be one the main issues.

According to the BBC, the government had planned to publish a formal proposals in the autumn to outline its position, but the idea was dropped.

Meanwhile, the pound has been losing ground to other currencies and reached a 31-year low last Friday amid reports of a "hard" Brexit that would cut the UK from the EU single market.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The City is right to be worried

By promising to prioritise migration control in Brexit talks, prime minister Theresa May has given a clear signal that she will prioritise provincial England over bankers.

May extends Brexit olive branch

The British PM is to launch new Brexit talks with Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, as nerves fray, also among banks, at the prospect of a "hard" EU exit.

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