Prime Minister Theresa May was urged Saturday to try to quell the furore sparked by a High Court ruling that she needs parliamentary approval before triggering Britain’s exit from the EU.
Former ministers called on her to address the angry backlash after three senior judges upheld a challenge to her right to start the departure process without MPs having their say first.
May spent Friday trying to assure European leaders that Thursday’s verdict would not affect her timetable for triggering Article 50, the formal procedure for leaving the European Union.
But on the domestic front, members of her governing centre-right Conservative Party and pro-Brexit newspapers were raging about the ruling, fearing it could derail the process.
Bob Neill, the chairman of parliament’s scrutiny committee on justice affairs, said the attacks were “threatening the independence of our judiciary”, as he urged May to intervene.
Early election speculation
The High Court decision raises the prospect of a protracted parliamentary debate, although EU leaders have urged a swift departure.
In a sign of the likely parliamentary storms ahead, pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Stephen Phillips resigned as an MP on Friday, citing “irreconcilable policy differences with the current government”.
He said “quitter” was a label he could live with, but “Conservative no longer is”.
The resignation leaves May’s government with a slim working majority of 14 in the 650-member House of Commons.
It also fuelled speculation of an early general election, though Downing Street maintains that polls should not be brought forward from 2020.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Saturday that ministers were openly discussing the possibility.
It quoted an unnamed government member as saying: “The problem we have got is we have a Brexit majority in the country and a Remain majority in parliament.
“Given this court judgement and the likelihood that we won’t win the appeal... I am now open-minded to an early election as many colleagues are.”
The pound – which has tumbled to multi-year lows since the referendum – soared against the dollar and euro, standing at $1.25 during afternoon trading in London on Friday.
Meanwhile, the White House urged Britain and the EU to “continue to be flexible and work this out in a process that is smooth, pragmatic, transparent and productive” following the court ruling.