Saturday

26th May 2018

British MPs' vote could trigger Brexit talks

The UK parliament's lower house is to debate and vote on Monday (13 March) on whether to accept amendments to the Brexit bill, which were added by the upper and unelected House of Lords.

The vote on the EU withdrawal bill, which gives prime minister Theresa May the authority to implement the divorce from the European Union, would allow her to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty already on Tuesday.

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The House of Lords tweaked the bill last week so that it would protect the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK and guarantee legislators a binding say on the final deal at the end of the exit talks.

May wants those changes overturned, and her Brexit minister David Davis argued on Sunday in an interview that MPs should not tie the prime minister's hands in the talks.

He also admitted that there might not be enough time at the end of the divorce discussions to hold a meaningful vote in parliament.

But he told BBC nevertheless: “It’s inconceivable to me that there wouldn’t be a vote on the outcome."

Davis also argued that the UK would be prepared, if it has to leave the EU with no deal in place.

Both houses would have to agree on the same text of the bill, in a process called parliamentary "ping pong", but it is unlikely that the House of Lords will put up a fight on Monday if the MPs reject their amendments.

Some Conservative MPs are withholding their support for the bill and want to see assurances from the government on allowing parliament to have the final vote over the exit deal, or if May would allow the MPs to have a say what happens if talks break down.

May has a narrow majority of 17 in the House of Commons, making her government vulnerable to Tory rebels siding with the opposition - Labour or Liberal Democrats.

Final countdown

If the two houses agree on the bill on Monday, May will be in a position to launch the Article 50 exit procedure the next day.

That would allow enough room to organise a special EU summit for 6 April, where EU leaders could approve negotiating guidelines for the European Commission and its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

European Council president Donald Tusk said last week that the EU was ready to respond within 48 hours of getting the official letter of withdrawal from the British government.

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