Theresa May ‘acting like a Tudor monarch’ over Brexit vote
Reports suggest prime minister will trigger article 50 without allowing MPs to vote on it
File photo from July showing Theresa May holding the first Cabinet meeting of the new government, as the prime minister will gather her Cabinet ministers on Wednesday to discuss her plans for Brexit. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA
Theresa May has been accused of displaying the “arrogance of a Tudor monarch” over her reported intention to deny a parliamentary vote on Brexit before beginning the process of pulling the UK out of the European Union.
The prime minister is allegedly planning to prevent MPs from voting on the decision to leave the EU before article 50, the legislation that will trigger the UK’s formal exit from the bloc, is triggered.
There has been a post-referendum debate over whether the result is merely advisory, as the act that created it did not specify whether the result would be binding. Some have argued a vote should be held in parliament to ratify the result.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Ms May had been told by government lawyers that she did not need parliamentary approval to trigger the procedure, but it is believed that the prime minister could face legal challenges over the decision.
The vast majority of MPs, up to 480, and most peers in the House of Lords have supported remaining in the EU. Some reacted to the news with anger.
“Theresa May is clearly running scared from parliamentary scrutiny of her Brexit negotiations,” he said.
“She’s looked at the numbers and she knows she might not win a vote in parliament.
“She hasn’t set out what Brexit means and she doesn’t want to be held to account on vital issues such as stripping away workers’ rights and environmental safeguards.”
Mr Smith said that if he was to become the opposition leader, he would “press for whatever final deal she, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis come up with” to be put to the British people, either in a second referendum or at a general election.
David Lammy, the Tottenham Labour MP who has been campaigning for a second referendum, tweeted that the plans were a “stitch-up”, adding that: “In our democracy, parliament is sovereign and must vote ahead of any decision to Brexit.”
The shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, also spoke out against Ms May’s plans.
“The logic of saying the prime minister can trigger article 50 without first setting out to parliament the terms and basis upon which her government seeks to negotiate – indeed, without even indicating the red lines she will seek to protect – would be to diminish parliament and assume the arrogant powers of a Tudor monarch,” he said.
“Parliament cannot be sidelined from the greatest constitutional change our country has debated in 40 years.”
Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who have said they will fight the next general election on stopping Brexit , was also dismayed by the report.
“The people narrowly voted to leave the EU, and we must respect that,” he said.
“But the people did not elect Theresa May, and neither did they vote for the as-yet unknown outcome of David Davis’s negotiations.
“To impose a swift exit on the British people without giving the people or their representatives a say, or an opportunity to scrutinise the government’s as yet nonexistent plan for our country’s future, is a betrayal of Britain’s interests and of British democracy.”
‘Let’s get on with it’
Bill Cash, a Conservative MP and leading Brexit campaigner, welcomed the news about the legal advice reportedly given to May.
“It sounds emphatic, and that’s what we want to hear,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
“There are people who are threatening to try to stop Brexit. The bottom line is that there is nothing that could possibly be allowed to stand in its way.
“Everyone in Europe is expecting it, the decision has been taken by the British people, and that’s it. Let’s get on with it.”
The logistics of implementing article 50 will doubtless be one of the main topics of debate when Ms May gathers her cabinet at Chequers on Wednesday.
At the meeting, which No 10 announced on Sunday morning, senior ministers will reportedly be challenged to come up with an action plan to “make Brexit work”.
Each cabinet minister will be asked to identify the “opportunities” that could stem from the UK’s departure from the EU in their own particular field of competence, a senior government source told the newspaper.