Owen Smith, the challenger to incumbent Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has vowed that he will attempt to block the triggering of Article 50 and subsequent formal negotiations of Britain’s exit from the European Union (“EU”) until the UK Government offers a second referendum or calls a general election to approve the final Brexit deal. Sir Patrick McLoughlin, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, has said that the referendum result was clear and decisive and must be respected.
Mr Smith has said that under his leadership, the Labour Party will vote in Parliament to block any attempt to invoke Article 50, and thus trigger Britain’s exit from the bloc, until the Conservatives either commit to a second referendum or a general election on whatever exit deal emerges at the end of the negotiations.
Under Mr Smith’s proposal, the British people would vote on whether or not they accept the terms of the exit deal that is negotiated with the remaining EU Member States. If the British public do not consent to the deal, Britain would remain in the EU on its current membership terms.
The Article 50 process provides that if no agreement is reached within the two year timetable and no unanimous agreement is reached to extend the negotiation period, Britain would be released from the EU as a third country (see our previous post “Article 50: Interpretations and Applications” available here). The UK Government’s assessment of Article 50 has thus far been that Article 50 can be triggered by the Prime Minister without parliamentary consent.
Prime Minister Theresa May has previously said that she will not trigger Article 50 this year (see our previous post “Theresa May: Brexit negotiations won’t start in 2016, UK will seek freedom of movement controls” here).