Recently MPs overwhelmingly backed a Government amendment endorsing the Prime Minister’s March deadline for triggering Article 50. It was highly symbolic, marking the moment Parliament endorsed the Government’s Brexit timetable which Theresa May had announced at the Conservative Party Conference.
The motion last Wednesday was introduced by the Shadow Minister for Brexit who is fervently pressing the Government for a detailed exit plan to be ratified by MPs before Article 50 is triggered. However the Opposition agreed to an amendment calling on the Government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017.
At the same time as the debate was taking place, in the Supreme Court the Government’s appeal against the previous Judge’s decision to insist Parliament make the decision on whether to invoke Article 50 was being heard.
The original case and the appeal centre around who in the UK has legal authority to formally notify the EU that Britain is beginning its withdrawal under Article 50. The Government maintains that its executive powers, inherited through what was the royal prerogative and its customary practice of signing International Treaties, entitle it to notify Brussels the UK will be leaving. The challengers argue that only Parliament has the authority to do so.
In my opinion the British people gave their authority to the Government when they voted in the Referendum.
I made it clear during the referendum campaign that I am an ardent advocate for leaving the EU and I know that those in charge of overseeing Brexit will work hard to get the best deal for the United Kingdom, a deal which is unique and beneficial to us as a nation. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration and we will be free to pass and enforce our own laws. We also want to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with Europe and let European businesses do the same here.
Now that Parliament has voted by a large margin to back our timetable, we need to concentrate on how we get the best outcome for our country. Working in the Department for International Trade this is really important and I see this daily. That means sticking to our plan and timetable and getting on with the work of developing our negotiating strategy. It also means not revealing our hand before we get to the negotiating table.
We are going to make a success of Brexit, our vision for Britain outside the EU is clear: a fully independent, sovereign country and no matter what happens now in Parliament, after last week’s vote, even the opposition is signed up to the principle that by March 31st next year the Government will have been able to invoke Article 50.
(This article was originally written for the Burton Mail).