A group of British politicians called today (10 October) for a parliamentary vote on the UK’s future relations with the EU, warning the option of a hard Brexit that has hit the pound would be a “grave danger”.
The call came after May’s government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn yesterday (9 October) when it backtracked on a proposal for companies to publish lists of foreign employees that caused widespread outrage.
Experts say a so-called hard Brexit would mean Britain withdrawing entirely from Europe’s single market in order to be able to impose strict immigration controls.
Norway is seen as a possible model for “soft” Brexit, where Britain would be out of the EU but would retain strong economic ties and allow free movement of people.
“We do want parliament to debate… most notably whether we remain in the single market,” Anna Soubry, an MP from May’s Conservative Party, told BBC radio. Soubry said there was a “grave danger” of the government drawing its own conclusions from the result of the referendum about the type of future relationship that Britons wanted with the EU. “It is not good for our country,” she warned.
She said former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband had made a request for an urgent question in parliament later on today asking May to explain herself.
The PM must get parliamentary consent for her Brexit negotiating position. No referendum mandate for hard Brexit nor a Commons majority.
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) October 9, 2016
“Negotiating secrecy won’t wash as an excuse. The country has a right to know the government’s Brexit strategy and parliament must vote on it,” he said.
The EU has said Britain must accept free movement of people if it wants access to the single market. May’s announcements last week about cutting immigration from the EU and the tough response from European leaders that it faced exclusion from the single market have spooked the financial markets.
It adds to pressure already on May, who also faces a legal challenge later this week arguing that there has to be a vote in parliament on whether or not Britain can invoke Article 50. The legal dispute could end up in the supreme court.
The government has argued it has “royal prerogative”, an executive privilege normally applied to foreign policy, to trigger Article 50 without consultation.
“Of course parliament will have a role in the exit process,” a Downing Street source was quoted by British media as saying. But the source added that a parliamentary vote on the terms of Brexit “is simply an attempt to find another way to thwart the will of the British people.”
May has said she will invoke Article 50 by the end of March, opening an expected two-year negotiation process that could see Britain leave the EU in early 2019.