Government ministers have privately conceded defeat on a landmark Supreme Court case on Theresa May’s powers to trigger Brexit talks.
Legislation has been drafted that hands the power to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaties – the trading bloc’s divorce proceedings – to Parliament.
The Supreme Court justices are widely expected to uphold a High Court ruling that only Parliament can enact the result of the EU referendum and begin Brexit.
The date of the ruling is unknown but it is expected within weeks. Sources told the Guardian ministers had asked for early sight of the judgement for ‘contingency planning’ but were rebuffed.
Remain campaigner Gina Miller brought the case and insisted she would not appeal further if she lost.
Once it is delivered, Mrs May faces a tight timetable to pass a law on triggering Article 50 in time for her self-imposed deadline of the end of March.
Any such measure is expected to clear the Commons by a landslide and Lords leader Lord Fowler has said peers will not hold it up.
Senior Vote Leave campaigner Dominic Raab told the paper: ‘I hope we get some common sense from the supreme court, but I don’t expect the ruling to hold up triggering article 50, and the vast majority of people whichever way they voted now want us to get on and deliver Brexit.’
Former chief whip Mark Harper said he expected legislation that was ‘very tight that gives authority to ministers to trigger article 50 before the end of March’.
A supreme court spokesperson said: ‘In view of the potential sensitivity of the case, there will be no copies of drafts available to anybody before the day of hand-down’.
Mrs May stood by her timetable again today amid claims political turmoil in Northern Ireland could force a delay.
Remain campaigner Gina Miller, pictured outside the court in Westminster in December, brought the case and insisted she would not appeal further if she lost.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson called on the Prime Minister to delay triggering Article 50 if voters go to the polls because it would leave Northern Ireland voiceless in the Brexit process.
‘In these circumstances will she postpone Article 50 or will she just plough on regardless?’ he asked.
Mrs May said she wanted a swift resolution to the political crisis in Northern Ireland.
She added: ‘It is still the case that ministers are in place and that obviously there are executives in place, that we are still able to take the views of the Northern Ireland people.’
In the first session of Prime Minister’s Questions of the new year, Mrs May repeated her intention to set out more details about the Government’s approach to Brexit soon.
‘I will … in a matter of weeks be setting out some more details of our proposal on this issue.’
The SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson, pictured in the Commons today, called on the Prime Minister to delay triggering Article 50 because of a political crisis in Northern Ireland