Opponents were out in force threatening to derail Britain’s departure from the European Union amid fears the Supreme Court will stop the Government firing the starting gun on Brexit without a vote in Parliament.
But the letter signed by 200 business leaders being delivered to Downing Street today urges the Prime Minister not to waiver on her plan to trigger up to two years of formal Brexit talks with the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March next year at the latest.
They tell her: “We … are confident that Britain can prosper outside the EU.
“Some of us voted Leave, some Remain. Others represent international businesses with a stake in Britain’s success.
“What we share is a respect for the decision made by a clear majority of the British people to leave the EU, and a belief that it is now vital that Article 50 is triggered within the Government’s timeframe – no later than 31st March 2017, but preferably sooner – so that the country can get on with leaving the EU, and businesses and investors can plan accordingly.
“Create certainty and confidence, trade and jobs will follow.”
The letter was coordinated by financier Daniel Hodson, chairman of pro-Brexit The City for Britain. Signatories include David Cameron’s former enterprise advisor and one-time Trade Secretary Lord Young of Graffham, City leaders Dr Peter Cruddas and Jim Mellon, theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, and JD Wetherspoon pub chain founder Tim Martin.
Welcoming the intervention, Leave Means Leave co-chairman John Longworth said: “British businesses want to get on with leaving the EU and making a success of Brexit.”
Dr Cruddas, treasurer of the pro-Leave Change Britain, said: “Business needs certainty. Those trying to delay Article 50 are increasing uncertainty and putting British firms, jobs and investment at risk.”
Separately, UK Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall told the Daily Express: “Ukip fully supports the rule of law but the judges of the Supreme Court must remember that legitimacy in a democracy comes from the people and the people have spoken clearly.”
Pro-Brexit former Conservative Cabinet minister Owen Paterson said in response to other threats to put a spanner in the works that Tory activists he met this weekend were delighted with Brexit “but, like the 200 businessmen, are saying ‘when are you going to get on with it, we do not want to be thwarted’.
“There’s a huge issue for the whole political establishment, and the media and the judicial establishments. “It should not be sneered at (that) 17.4 million people voted for this and if this is not delivered there will be the most shattering disillusion with that establishment.”
The hearing in Britain’s highest court starting today will for the first time in the court’s seven-year history involve all 11 of its justices. It is set to last four days with judgment due next month.
The Government is challenging a High Court ruling that the PM needs MPs’ approval to invoke Article 50.
The Scottish and Welsh governments and the Attorney General for Northern Ireland have also been given permission to intervene.
Scotland’s Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC will argue it would be unlawful for the Article 50 process to start without a Legislative Consent Motion in the Edinburgh Parliament, permitting the UK to act on Brexit.
In an ominous development, Scottish National Party MP and former leader Alex Salmond said yesterday SUNDAY it could put Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who wants her country to stay in the EU or at least have a special deal – “in an extremely powerful position in terms of securing the interests of Scotland in the negotiations”.
The UK government insists the Brexit deal will be UK-wide like the referendum, even though a majority of votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland were for Remain.
Other Opposition parties at Westminster are also threatening trouble if given a chance.
Jeremy Corbyn said this weekend that Labour would seek to amend any legislation to secure assurances over continued access to EU markets, workers rights and environmental protections, although he insists he respects the Brexit vote.
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman and former leader Nick Clegg told BBC1’s Sunday Politics he could vote against invoking Article 50, unless the Government promised a second referendum on the final Brexit deal and to try and keep Britain in the EU single market.
Some pro-EU campaigners are even musing about taking Brexit issues to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg which rules on disputes about EU law.
Green Party Northern Ireland Assembly member Steven Agnew told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that all options should be explored to test claims that Article 50 to leave the EU cannot be reversed once triggered.
Pro-EU campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC said the law required the Supreme Court to refer such questions to the ECJ – and that if it did not he was exploring whether courts in Ireland or Belgium could make such a reference.
Conservative MP Mr Paterson insisted that Article 50 says any country can leave the EU in line with its own constitutional requirements.
For him that “emphatically, no messing around” meant the law passed in Parliament agreeing to a referendum and parties’ promises to honour the will of the British people.
Ministers were said to be preparing a 16-word Bill to put through Parliament if they lose in the Supreme Court, designed to give opponents as little opportunity as possible to delay Brexit.
A Government spokesman said: “Obviously we will be prepared for all eventualities, but this is premature.
“We are focused on the appeal to Supreme Court. As Downing Street and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union have said, the logical conclusion to draw from the High Court judgement is that legislation would be necessary.
“But we are appealing the judgement and hope the Supreme Court will rule differently.
“In the event that it doesn’t, we will assess precisely what remedy the Supreme Court requires and will set out our approach at that point.”
Pro-Brexit Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told an interviewer he did not want a repeat of the “really painful” divisive referendum and that it was “totally mad” for Lib Dems and others to “burble on” about having a second one.
December 5th, 2016: Express