Parliament 'will have its say on Brexit process'
Parliament will be given "a say" on the process for the UK's departure from the European Union, a Downing Street spokesman has said.
But the spokesman declined several opportunities to say whether MPs will be given a vote in the Commons on triggering Article 50, when pressed on the issue by reporters.
The spokesman said there was "no legal obligation" for Prime Minister Theresa May to consult Parliament before invoking the Article, which kicks off a two-year process of negotiating a new relationship with the EU following its departure.
His comments left open the possibility that Mrs May will launch the negotiations without seeking MPs' approval, and will later give them an opportunity to express their views in a debate without a vote.
Speaking at a regular Westminster media briefing, the spokesman also confirmed that Mrs May will not hold a second Brexit referendum on the outcome of the Article 50 negotiations and will not call an early general election to seek voters' approval of the eventual deal, as Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith has demanded.
A legal bid to prevent the Government from triggering Article 50 without the prior authorisation of Parliament is due to be heard in the High Court in October.
And former foreign secretary Lord (William) Hague has suggested it would be politically advantageous for Mrs May to give MPs a vote.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the Remain-backing Tory peer said: " It seems unlikely that Theresa May has any legal need to ask Parliament to approve the invoking of Article 50, which is a matter of royal prerogative to be exercised by ministers.
"Yet she does have a political need to do so, so that Parliament will have made a decision to ratify the referendum outcome, and to forestall debates, plots, motions and laws proposed and promoted by others.
" It would make sense to ask the Commons soon to endorse the start of negotiations early in 2017, if that is indeed the Government's plan, and to flush out those who wish to flout the result of the referendum."
The Number 10 spokesman told reporters: "There is no legal obligation to consult Parliament before triggering Article 50 - that position has been well set out since the decision to leave the EU was taken by the British people.
"We have been very clear, Parliament will have its say. Triggering Article 50 won't happen before the end of the year. At the moment, the work is full speed ahead on establishing a UK-wide approach to Brexit and setting out a clear set of objectives for negotiations going forward.
"Parliament will have a say on Article 50 and the relationship of Britain going forward as it exits the EU or starts the process of exiting the EU... When Parliament will have a say will be something that will be resolved over the coming months.
"Parliament will be involved, it will have a say, opinions will be aired, but I would just say that the referendum bill was passed by a majority of six to one in the Commons and that that PM has been clear that the will of the people who voted to leave the EU must be respected."
Mr Smith has said he will seek to block the deployment of Article 50 unless the Government offers a second referendum or confirms it will call a general election to approve its final Brexit deal.
But the Number 10 spokesman said Mr Smith was "not the leader of the Labour Party", adding: " The PM has been clear there will be no second referendum. I think the PM has been clear there will be no general election either. That position has been well set out."
The spokesman added: " The PM has been absolutely clear on this on numerous occasions. Brexit does mean Brexit. The will of the people must be respected and it must be implemented.
"The Prime Minister has also been clear that there must be no attempts for us to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through a back-door mechanism and no second referendum."
Senior ministers are to discuss plans for Brexit with Mrs May at a Cabinet meeting at her country retreat Chequers on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister has charged her top team with setting out the opportunities that leaving the European Union will create in each of their portfolios.
Mr Smith has challenged top Tories who backed calls for a second referendum to "have the courage of their previous convictions".
The Labour leadership-hopeful said Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had all previously suggested that voters should be given the opportunity to sign off on any deal struck between the UK and the EU.
He said: "Theresa May is running scared of a parliamentary vote on Article 50 because she is afraid of the scrutiny on the final Tory Brexit deal.
"David Davis, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt should have the courage of their previous convictions and argue in Cabinet for the second referendum they used to believe in."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "Saying Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss this is not good enough.
"Brexit is the biggest issue facing Britain, and to give vague comments about how MPs will get a chance to talk about it is frankly a disgraceful way to treat MPs and more importantly the constituents who sent us to Westminster to represent them.
"I am urging the Prime Minister to lay out a clear framework of Brexit oversight for MPs. We need clarity, and we need it today."