Brexit Secretary criticises opposition politicians for attempts to "thwart" EU exit

David Davis says the British government remains on course to trigger Article 50 by March

Brexit Secretary criticises opposition politicians for attempts to "thwart" EU exit

David Davis. Image: PA Wire/PA Images

The UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis has insisted the British government remains on course to trigger the formal process for leaving the EU by the end of March, despite a legal fight over Parliament's role.

Mr Davis said the British Supreme Court was likely to hear a government appeal in early December after the UK High Court ruled that Parliament must approve the triggering of Article 50.

In a statement to the MPs, Mr Davis insisted the government remained on course to deliver on the timetable promised by Prime Minister Theresa May, whatever the Supreme Court decides.

He told MPs: "It's likely that any hearing will be scheduled in the Supreme Court in early December. We would hope the judgment would be provided soon after.

"This timetable remains consistent with our aim to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year."

Mr Davis criticised attempts by opposition MPs, including former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, to secure a second referendum, saying they were attempting to "thwart" Brexit.

He said another public vote on the terms of the UK's exit would encourage the rest of the EU to impose "impossibly difficult conditions" in a bid to ensure voters opted to reverse June's decision to leave.

"In other words, the whole approach is designed to wreck the negotiations," Mr Davis said.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said ministers had refused to detail how it would respond if it lost the appeal.

He said that while he did not expect Mrs May to reveal her negotiating hand, there were issues such as the single market and customs union where ministers should set out their stance.

He said her administration's approach was "unravelling" in an "ugly way", stepping up his attack on ministers over the treatment of the judiciary following the High Court verdict.

"We saw a series of appalling personal attacks on the judges, including the suggestion that they were enemies of the people," Mr Starmer said.

Mr Davis said in his statement that "we believe in and value the independence of our judiciary", but he also defended the freedom of the press.

"Both these things underpin our democracy," he said.