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May moves to keep finger on Brexit trigger

Press Association logoPress Association 3/11/2016

Theresa May is trying to restore her grip on Brexit as calls mount for an emergency general election to settle the question of British withdrawal from the EU.

The Prime Minister was engaging in an urgent round of telephone diplomacy in the wake of the High Court decision which insisted Parliament must have the final say on Britain triggering divorce deal negotiations with Brussels.

Mrs May is calling European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday in a bid to persuade continental leaders that the explosive legal ruling would not shake her from the pledge to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - which would formally launch Brexit - by April next year.

But the uncertainty created by the High Court judgement was underlined by Tory former chancellor and ardent pro-European Ken Clarke, who told BBC Newsnight he would move to block invoking Article 50, saying: "I will vote against it. I shall stick to my guns. I'm not going to cast a hypocritical vote."

With the largely pro-EU Commons in the Brexit driving seat pending an appeal of the High Court ruling to the Supreme Court in early December, interim Ukip leader Nigel Farage called on Mrs May to call a snap general election, even though he said such a move would face stiff opposition from Tory and Labour benches alike.

The move came as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid gave a scathing response to the judgment as he branded it "unacceptable".

Asked on BBC Question Time if the High Court ruling flew in the face of democracy, Mr Javid said: "Yes, it does."

He added: "This is an attempt to frustrate the will of the British people, and it is unacceptable."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Farage said: "The best thing Theresa May could do now would be to call a general election, but it is unlikely that Labour MPs, led by a man they don't believe in, would be keen on facing the likely electoral oblivion that would follow."

Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act brought in by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, the slated May 2020 general election could be brought forward only if two thirds of MPs vote for it or the Government loses a vote of no confidence and other parties cannot form an alternative administration within 14 days of such a move.

After the High Court ruling rocked Westminster, Brexit Secretary David Davis conceded that an act of Parliament would now be needed to trigger Article 50, with Mrs May's spokeswoman stating his view was the "logical conclusion" to draw from the High Court judgment.

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