A fast-track Bill to begin the process of leaving the EU is to be raced through Parliament after the Government lost its Article 50 appeal in the Supreme Court.
Within hours of the 8-3 ruling by the Supreme Court judges, the Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs legislation would be introduced in the Commons later this week.
But in a statement on the Government’s response to the widely-expected court defeat, he warned MPs against attempting to sabotage the legislation in the Commons or the Lords.
“The purpose of this Bill is simply to give the Government the power to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union,” Mr Davis told MPs.
“That’s what the British people voted for and it’s what they would expect.
“Parliament will rightly scrutinise and debate this legislation.
“But I trust no-one will seek to make it a vehicle for attempts to thwart the will of the people or frustrate or delay the process of exiting the European Union.”
Mr Davis said the judgment did not affect the fact Britain will be leaving the EU in line with the result of last year’s referendum, saying: “There can be no turning back.
“The point of no return was passed on June 23 last year.”
But Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer said to loud cheers from MPs: “What a waste of time and money!”
He said it was 82 days since the decision against the Government in the High Court and demanded to know: “How much did this cost?”
The Commons clashes came after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by ministers against a High Court judgment blocking their decision to begin Britain’s exit from the European Union without Parliament having a say.
The Supreme Court ruling was immediately welcomed by Gina Miller, the lead claimant in the case against the Government.
But there was better news for the Government when the Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected the argument that Theresa May must also consult devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50.
Standing outside the court after the ruling, the Attorney General Jeremy Wright – who led the Government’s legal fight – said ministers were disappointed by the ruling, but added: “The Government will comply with the judgment of the court and do all that is necessary to implement it.”
Downing Street also said the Government respected the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The British people voted to leave the EU, and the Government will deliver on their verdict – triggering Article 50, as planned, by the end of March,” said a spokesman.
“Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.”
In his response, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would not frustrate the process for invoking Article 50, but would seek to amend the legislation to prevent the UK becoming a “bargain-basement tax haven”.
The SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond said his party would table multiple amendments to the Bill, adding:
“If Theresa May is intent on being true to her word that Scotland and the other devolved administrations are equal partners in this process, then now is the time to show it.”
The Liberal Democrats, who have just nine MPs but more than 100 peers, said they would vote against Article 50 unless there is a guarantee of the public having a vote on the final deal, said leader Tim Farron.
But UKIP’s new leader Paul Nuttall warned MPs and peers not to hamper the passage of the legislation.
“The will of the people will be heard, and woe betide those politicians or parties that attempt to block, delay, or in any other way subvert that will,” he said.
In the Commons exchanges after Mr Davis’s statement, Labour’s Hilary Benn, chairman of the Exiting the EU Committee, called for a White Paper on the Government’s Brexit objectives so they can be considered by MPs.
He added to Mr Davis: “Because if the Government does not do so then … it’ll be showing a lack of respect for this House of Commons.”
But Tory Eurosceptic John Redwood said: “If someone votes against sending the Article 50 letter, aren’t they voting against restoring the very parliamentary sovereignty they called in aid?
“Don’t the British people want a proper Parliament, not a puppet Parliament answering to Brussels, and doesn’t that require sending the letter soon?”