Theresa May has announced that she will invoke Article 50 by the end of March 2017.
The announcement, made during her speech at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, has put an end to months of speculation.
Respect the vote
In her speech, the Prime Minister was clear that the vote for Brexit must be respected:
“When it legislated to establish the referendum, parliament put the decision to leave or remain inside the EU in the hands of the people, and the people gave their answer with emphatic clarity.”
May went on to sharply criticise those behind the legal challenge against the government’s right to invoke Article 50. They were pretending to stand up for democracy. In fact, they sought to ‘subvert’ it:
“They’re not trying to get Brexit right; they’re trying to kill it by delaying it. They’re insulting the intelligence of the British people. And that is why next week I can tell you that the Attorney General himself, Jeremy Wright, will act for the government and resist them in the courts.”
Time to form a strategy
Explaining the delay (previously defended here) May said that it allowed the government “time to develop our negotiating strategy”. It avoided setting the clock ticking “until our objectives are clear and agreed”.
May claimed that the government’s decision to delay negotiations with the EU until it had developed its strategy offered some certainty to businesses and investors:
“Consumer confidence has remained steady, foreign investment in Britain has continued. Employment is at a record high, and wages are on the up. There is still some uncertainty, but the sky has not fallen in as some predicted it would.”