Three prominent members of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party today urged her to drop the government’s appeal against a court ruling that parliament must approve the process to trigger Brexit.
Oliver Letwin, former head of the government’s Brexit preparations, former law officer Edward Garnier and former attorney general Dominic Grieve all warned that the Supreme Court appeal could delay the triggering of Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, which begins formal exit talks.
The comments come a day after the court ruled the devolved Scottish and Welsh governments will be allowed to intervene in the appeal, due to take place next month.
Letwin told BBC Radio 4 that the government should scrap the appeal and instead deliver a “fast and tightly timetabled and constrained bill” to parliament, avoiding “any risk of the Supreme Court deciding to accord the devolved administrations some rights or even some veto powers”.
Garnier called on May to “avoid an unnecessary legal row” that could pit judges against the government and involve a “lot of unnecessary expense.”
Grieve added that he “can’t see the point in the government continuing with the case and…if they enact primary legislation, they will get it through parliament.”
All three were in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, but pro-Brexit former cabinet minister Owen Paterson also urged the government to shelve the appeal.
“I wouldn’t have a bet on the government winning this one,” he told BBC Radio 4. “It is not good to have a confrontation with the courts.”
In response, 60 Conservative MPs backed a statement sent to the Daily Telegraph calling on May to seek a full exit from EU institutions, including the single market.
“The UK must leave the European Economic Area [EEA] and the Customs Union,” said the statement, backed by seven former cabinet ministers including Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith.
May initially wanted to use her executive powers to trigger the start of the process without parliamentary approval by the end of March, but the High Court ruling could delay the process.
The initial ruling prompted outrage among Brexit supporters and parts of the conservative press, with one tabloid branding the judges “Enemies of the people” — an attack that sparked a fierce controversy.
The concern among the pro-Brexit camp is that pro-European lawmakers will seek to water down the break with the EU and derail May’s timetable.