Prime Minister Theresa May will tell European Union officials on Friday that a court ruling requiring a parliamentary vote will not derail her timetable for Britain to leave the bloc.
May’s aides say she will appeal the decision by the High Court, which said that the government must get parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50, the formal divorce announcement. They also say she will stick to her timetable to do it by the end of March.
Parliament is unlikely to defy the referendum vote by blocking Brexit, but if - as one aide said was the logical conclusion of the High Court ruling - she is forced to draft legislation for both houses to consider, her March deadline looks tight, several lawmakers said.
That could force her to call an early election, they said, a move her spokeswoman rejected on Thursday, saying 2020 was still the focus. Bookmakers odds on an election next year were cut after the court decision but 2020 was still the favourite date.
“The government is focused on how do we deliver what the British people decided and how do we do that in the way that gets the best deal for Britain,” May’s spokeswoman said on Thursday.
“We’ve been very clear in our position that we don’t agree with the court’s view and that’s why we are appealing it.”
The court ruling has spurred hope among investors and pro-EU lawmakers that parliament will now be able to put pressure on May’s government - which has three high profile eurosceptic ministers in key roles - to soften any plans for a “hard Brexit”, or a clean break with the EU’s lucrative single market.
But it has enraged pro-Brexit campaigners and Britain’s eurosceptic newspapers, with the Daily Mail calling the three judges who handed down the ruling “Enemies of the people” and the best-selling Sun newspaper asking: “Who do EU think you are? Loaded foreign elite defy will of Brit voters.”
The ruling is likely to stir passions in Britain just over four months after 52 percent of voters supported leaving the EU at a referendum which deepened splits in the country and gave voice to resentment - mirrored across Western Europe and the United States - with a ruling elite seen as out of touch.
Some lawmakers who had backed staying in the bloc were criticised on social media, accused of trying to stop Brexit.
“Tolerance must win over hate and scaremongering. I’m not alone in standing up for the 48 percent who also have the right to be heard and listened to,” said Anna Soubry, a pro-EU lawmaker from May’s ruling Conservative Party.
May had wanted to move on Brexit as quickly as possible - keen to show that although she campaigned quietly for Britain to remain in the EU she would listen to the “will of the people”.
And there was clear frustration among her aides that the court had put a question mark over a schedule May has been outlining to EU leaders for weeks after some, especially French President Francois Hollande, called for Britain to move quickly.
May, a former interior minister described as “intractable” by a former government official, has repeatedly said she does not want to give her hand away before launching some of the most complicated talks Britain has waged since World War Two.
Some lawmakers said if she failed to overturn the decision in the Supreme Court in December, they will demand that May must disclose more of her negotiating stance before triggering Article 50.
“Given the strict two year timetable of exiting the EU once Article 50 is triggered, it is critical that the government now lay out their negotiating (stance) to parliament before such a vote is held,” said Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
“So far May’s team have been all over the place when it comes to prioritising what is best for Britain, and it’s time they pull their socks up and start taking this seriously,” he said in a statement.