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Brexit: Nigel Farage says Parliament has 'no idea what anger they will provoke' if Article 50 blocked

Published 03/11/2016

Nigel Farage, who has described Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as traitors for attempting to force an early parliamentary vote on the Government's Brexit plan. PA
Nigel Farage, who has described Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as traitors for attempting to force an early parliamentary vote on the Government's Brexit plan. PA

Nigel Farage has threatened that parliament risks "huge public anger" if it stops the UK from leaving the EU.

Commenting on the High Court's decision that parliament must vote on triggering Article 50 and so bringing about Brexit, the interim Ukip leader said that he is worrying that a "betrayal may be at hand".

"Last night at the Spectator Parliamentary Awards I had a distinct feeling that our political class, who were out in force, do not accept the 23rd of June referendum result," Mr Farage said in a statement.

"I now fear that every attempt will be made to block or delay the triggering of Article 50. If this is so, they have no idea of the level of public anger they will provoke."

While it is unclear whether the decision that Article 50 can only be triggered by parliament will stop it from happening, it is likely to derail the decision and lead to a delay in the Government's plans.

In one of the most important constitutional cases in generations, three senior judges ruled the Prime Minister does not have power to use the prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the UK's exit from the European Union - without the prior authority of Parliament.

The ruling against the Government was made by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with two other senior judges in London.

The future of Brexit now appears to rest with the Supreme Court.

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Three judges unanimously ruled Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the power to bypass MPs by relying on the prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and begin the two-year period of divorce negotiations with the 27 other countries in the EU bloc.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said to do so would be contrary to "the fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of Parliament".

The court rejected the Government argument that prerogative powers were a legitimate way to give effect "to the will of the people" who voted by a clear majority to leave the European Union in the June referendum.

Lord Thomas - sitting with the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, and Lord Justice Sales - emphasised to a packed court in London they were deciding "a pure question of law" and not expressing any view about the "political issue" concerning the merits of leaving the European Union.

The pound rose sharply after the judgment, but the Government swiftly announced it is to appeal to the highest court in the land.

It is widely expected that 11 Supreme Court justices will sit before Christmas to hear one of the most important constitutional cases in generations.

Unless overturned by the Supreme Court - or at a potential further appeal to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg - the High Court ruling threatens to plunge the Government's plans for Brexit into disarray and delay.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who defended the Government's case in court, said ministers would be forced to produce a full Act of Parliament in order to trigger Article 50 unless the High Court ruling is overturned.

MPs have suggested that Mrs May could call a snap general election next year to ensure she has enough supportive MPs to get her Brexit plan through the House of Commons.

Mrs May's spokeswoman said it was still the Government's plan to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

The Prime Minister will, at her request, discuss the Brexit process with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday, Mr Juncker's spokesman told reporters in Brussels.

The spokesman said all the other members of the EU would like to see a "swift" notification of Article 50 to begin the Brexit process.

International Development Secretary Liam Fox, a leading Brexiteer, told the House of Commons of the proposed appeal and said the Government remained "determined to respect the result of the referendum".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the High Court ruling underlined the need for the Government to bring its negotiating terms for Brexit to Parliament "without delay".

He said: "Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to Parliament on the terms of Brexit."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the Government must now lay out its negotiating position in Parliament, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the finding as "significant indeed".

Green co-leader Caroline Lucas hailed it as "brilliant news", adding: "That's what taking back control should be about - better democracy."

Mrs May announced at the Conservative Party conference that she intends giving an Article 50 notification by the end of March 2017.

Her opponents in court were "concerned citizens" drawn from all walks of life, with the lead challenge brought by investment fund manager and philanthropist Gina Miller.

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Ms Miller was greeted by rounds of applause.

Ms Miller said the result was "about our United Kingdom and all our futures.

"It's not about how anyone voted. Every one of us voted for the best country and the best future."

The second named claimant was Deir Dos Santos, a hairdresser and British citizen described as "just an ordinary guy".

His solicitor David Greene, senior partner of law firm Edwin Coe, said in a statement on his behalf: "This is a victory for democracy over the feudal institution of royal prerogative.

"The Government has to accept the constitutional reality that Parliament must have early involvement in the process."

But Mrs May's spokeswoman said: "Our plans remain to invoke Article 50 by the end of March."

The spokeswoman declined to discuss whether ministers believe the March deadline is achievable if they have to appeal further to the European courts or, if the legal battle is finally lost, are forced to seek Parliament's approval.

She said MPs would be "involved" in discussions about the way forward and would have opportunities to debate Brexit - including on Monday, when the Commons will discuss the impact of withdrawal on workers' rights.

But she made clear that Mrs May does not intend to spell out her negotiating stance, as opponents have demanded.

"What matters moving forward is doing what is in Britain's national interest and that doesn't mean setting out all your cards on the table as you go into a negotiation with 27 other countries," said the spokeswoman.

However C onservative former ministers Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry have urged Mrs May to bring forward full-blown legislation to give MPs extensive scrutiny of Brexit before triggering Article 50.

They called on current ministers to table a Bill in Parliament following the High Court decision.

Brexiteers are now calling for reform of the way judges are appointed.

Ukip leadership candidate Suzanne Evans condemned "activist judges" and suggested a mechanism should be created to allow them to be dismissed.

Northern Ireland parties respond

The DUP is strongly in favour of leaving the EU. The party said there must be no attempt to block Brexit.

"On 23 June, the British people as a whole gave a clear mandate for the UK government to leave the EU," DUP MP Nigel Dodds said.

"There must be no attempt to block Brexit by people who refuse to accept the will of the people of the UK."

The UUP has said its two MPs will vote to trigger Article 50 to begin negotiations to leave the EU following the High Court ruling the matter must be put to parliament.

Our two MPs will vote to trigger Article 50, says pro-remain UUP 

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said that the Assembly must be given the opportunity to cast judgment on any deal leading to an attempt to trigger Article 50.

We will unapologetically vote against any proposal to leave EU, says SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said he has "no faith" that MPs will respect Northern Ireland's referendum result.

A Sinn Fein delegation including party president Gerry Adams TD, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Health Minister Michelle O’Neill met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Speaking after the meeting Gerry Adams said: "Sinn Féin believes that the position to remain has the consent of a majority of people in the North who voted to remain in June’s referendum.

"The implications for Ireland if Brexit goes ahead are clear – it will negatively impact on the peace process, negatively impact on the economy and negatively impact on human rights and equality provisions. 

"The Irish government needs to develop, promote and build support for alternatives, which deliver designated special status for the north in relation to EU membership. 

"There is an obligation on us all to work together to ensure the interests of the North, and the island as a whole are protected."

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