Berlin has issued a stark warning to the UK against leaving Brexit in “limbo”, as MPs threaten to use a vote on Article 50 to block Government plans.
Setting out his country’s response to Thursday’s dramatic High Court ruling, the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged Downing Street to resolve the situation “as quickly as possible”.
The caution came amid growing pressure for the Prime Minister to accept the judgement, with one MP resigning from the party over the Government’s decision to seek an appeal.
It also came as both Labour and Lib Dem MPs threatened to use a vote on triggering Article 50 to push for a “soft Brexit” agenda.
Speaking to reporters earlier today, Mr Steinmeier suggested the Prime Minister should aim to begin negotiations “as quickly as possible”.
He warned the UK that it “should now be clear...a limbo situation doesn’t help anybody”.
“I hope very much that the consequences of the High Court ruling won’t lead to extending the whole process, and dragging things out,” he went on.
“We will now wait for Britain to express its position on the notification under Article 50, and then negotiations should start as soon as possible.”
The speech followed a phone call between Theresa May and the President of the European Commission, in which she stressed she still plans to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal exit process by the end of March.
Number 10 also issued a statement today claiming it is “confident” of a victory in its appeal against Thursday’s High Court decision.
But despite these assurances, the Prime Minister was dealt a serious blow when the Conservative MP and Leave campaigner Stephen Phillips announced he was resigning.
The Sleaford MP cited “policy differences”, but has previously complained about the Government’s “undemocratic” handling of the Brexit process.
The development has been described as the beginning of a “leadership crisis” by Labour MP Jon Trickett, who claimed the Prime Minister “cannot provide the change which Britain needs”.
The Hemsworth MP said Mr Phillips’ resignation showed “that even Theresa May’s own MPs realise she has failed to lay out a convincing plan to deliver for Britain”.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have revealed that they would use any opportunity for a Parliamentary vote on Brexit to guarantee a so-called soft Brexit.
The Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg told the BBC the party would use their support in the House of Lords to amend legislation, and potentially to block it,
“We will seek, with other parties... to amend the legislation such that Parliament would say to Government that it should pursue a soft Brexit not a hard Brexit and that there should be some means by which the British people can have a say on the final deal,” he said.
“If were to be able to marshal opinion behind that approach then people will vote in favour of Article 50 triggered on that basis.
“If the Government, on the other hand, digs its heels in and says ‘we are going to go for a more self-harming, hard Brexit... then of course I think people will say ‘hang on a minute, we are not sure we are going to give you the consent to proceed on that basis’.”
The former Labour leadership contender Owen Smith has said he would amend legislation to insert a clause on a second referendum.
Speaking on the Daily Politics show, he said he would push for the “fullest possible explanation” from the Government “as to what their vision is for a post-Brexit world, what they want to try and achieve”.