Lawyer Martin Howe QC argues that despite the Cooper-Letwin Bill now becoming part of UK legislation, it does not mean Mrs May has to rule out a no deal Brexit. He claims that the law means the Prime Minister is only obliged to ask for an extension on Article 50. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Howe QC said there is no duty on Mrs May to actually agree to an extension or to a different date.
Mr Howe QC also suggested that she still has the power to walk away from the table and fulfil the pledges she made during her 2017 general election campaign by ensuring Brexit happens.
He wrote: “If she does this, we will automatically leave the European Union at 11pm on Friday and will regain immediately full control of our laws, borders and money.
“We will take back full control of our affairs, without the need for the permission of the EU.
“Will she do this?
“Regrettably her recent behaviour – particularly claiming to have ‘no choice’ but to enter into talks with Labour – indicates that her numerous past protestations that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ were insincere and uttered with no intention of following through on them.”
He added: “If we do stay in the EU for an extended period, that will be the result of the voluntary act and decision of the Prime Minister, not forced upon her, for which she should be held fully accountable.”
The Cooper-Letwin Bill, called the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019, has been met with fierce criticism from all sides of Parliament.
The motion was passed with a one-vote majority.
Mrs May has already asked Brussels to extend Britain’s EU membership until June 30 to allow talks with the opposition Labour Party in search of a different exit plan.
That plan was seen as a last-ditch attempt to keep control after Parliament rejected her own Brexit deal three times.
But lawmakers want additional legal guarantees against a “no-deal” exit happening on April 12 – the current exit day – and have crafted a law forcing ministers to consult with parliament tomorrow before she goes to Brussels.
The passage of the bill represents a significant blow to May’s authority, overturning the long-standing convention that the government has sole control of the agenda in parliament, allowing it to control what laws are passed.