Theresa May on Brexit, Parliament and triggering Article 50

For the record, this is what the Prime Minister said about the process of withdrawal from the EU during her speech to the Conservative Party conference today, 2 October:

The timing for triggering Article Fifty

First, everything we do as we leave the EU will be consistent with the law and our treaty obligations, and we must give as much certainty as possible to employers and investors. That means there can be no sudden and unilateral withdrawal: we must leave in the way agreed in law by Britain and other member states, and that means invoking Article Fifty of the Lisbon Treaty.

There was a good reason why I said – immediately after the referendum – that we should not invoke Article Fifty before the end of this year. That decision means we have the time to develop our negotiating strategy and avoid setting the clock ticking until our objectives are clear and agreed. And it has also meant that we have given some certainty to businesses and investors. Consumer confidence has remained steady. Foreign investment in Britain has continued. Employment is at a record high, and wages are on the up. There is still some uncertainty, but the sky has not fallen in, as some predicted it would: our economy remains strong.

So it was right to wait before triggering Article Fifty. But it is also right that we should not let things drag on too long. Having voted to leave, I know that the public will soon expect to see, on the horizon, the point at which Britain does formally leave the European Union. So let me be absolutely clear. There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article Fifty. We will invoke it when we are ready. And we will be ready soon. We will invoke Article Fifty no later than the end of March next year.

The process for triggering Article Fifty

Now I want to tell you a little more about the process for triggering Article Fifty.

The first thing to say is that it is not up to the House of Commons to invoke Article Fifty, and it is not up to the House of Lords. It is up to the Government to trigger Article Fifty and the Government alone.

When it legislated to establish the referendum, Parliament put the decision to leave or remain inside the EU in the hands of the people. And the people gave their answer with emphatic clarity. So now it is up to the Government not to question, quibble or backslide on what we have been instructed to do, but to get on with the job.

Because those people who argue that Article Fifty can only be triggered after agreement in both Houses of Parliament are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it. They’re not trying to get Brexit right, they’re trying to kill it by delaying it. They are insulting the intelligence of the British people. That is why, next week, I can tell you that the Attorney General himself, Jeremy Wright, will act for the Government and resist them in the courts.

Likewise, the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union are the responsibility of the Government and nobody else. I have already said that we will consult and work with the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, because we want Brexit to work in the interests of the whole country. And we will do the same with business and municipal leaders across the land.

But the job of negotiating our new relationship is the job of the Government. Because we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. There is no opt-out from Brexit. And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious Union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.

The Great Repeal Bill

The final thing I want to say about the process of withdrawal is the most important. And that is that we will soon put before Parliament a Great Repeal Bill, which will remove from the statute book – once and for all – the European Communities Act.

This historic Bill – which will be included in the next Queen’s Speech – will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which we formally leave the European Union. And its effect will be clear. Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority of EU law in Britain will end.

As we repeal the European Communities Act, we will convert the ‘acquis‘ – that is, the body of existing EU law – into British law. When the Great Repeal Bill is given Royal Assent, Parliament will be free – subject to international agreements and treaties with other countries and the EU on matters such as trade – to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses. But by converting the acquis into British law, we will give businesses and workers maximum certainty as we leave the European Union. The same rules and laws will apply to them after Brexit as they did before. Any changes in the law will have to be subject to full scrutiny and proper Parliamentary debate. And let me be absolutely clear: existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister.”

The full text of the PM’s speech is here. See also Adam Wagner’s helpful explanation of what it will mean in practice for human rights: How will repealing EU law affect human rights in the UK?

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  1. Pingback: Asociación para la Defensa de la Libertad Religiosa » Titulares Internacionales de Libertad Religiosa del 1 y 2 de Octubre de 2016

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