Brexit timetable in question as industry predicts further uncertainty and a possible early election

Fresh doubt has been cast on the timetable for Brexit after Theresa May’s government lost a High Court case challenging its right to trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament.

Parliament alone has the power to trigger Brexit, a High Court judge ruled today.

The government said it would appeal at the Supreme Court and was still committed to triggering Article 50 by March.

But campaigners against Brexit said the judgment opened a window for MPs or peers - thought to be the least enamoured with Brexit - to derail the process.

Reacting to the news, Guy Lougher, head of Brexit advisory at law firm Pinsent Masons, said it was “unclear” what would happen if Parliamentary approval was required for Brexit and that the chances of an early general election had increased.

He said: “Even if the House of Commons votes in favour of invoking Article 50, it is far from clear that the House of Lords would do so.

“In such a scenario a major constitutional debate will be triggered, given that the referendum result was clearly in favour of Brexit, which may well lead to an early general election.”

He added: “The best course of action for business is to keep calm and carry on; consider what outcome it would like to achieve from a Brexit and devise a plan for how best to achieve that outcome.”

Michael Dall, economist at Barbour ABI, said: “I never thought Brexit was going to happen [in the full sense] - why would the government deliberately take us on a course that is economically damaging? From now on it’s going to be a fudge. It’s a dog’s breakfast and so it’s being proved.

“It prolongs the uncertainty but on the upside it maybe reduces the possibility of a ‘hard Brexit’, which may go some way to calm business fears.”