UK Prime Minister Theresa May's hand moves closer to Brexit trigger

World Monday 13/March/2017 21:47 PM
By: Times News Service
UK Prime Minister Theresa May's hand moves closer to Brexit trigger

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May could clear the final hurdle standing between her and the start of Brexit negotiations on Monday when lawmakers will thrash out the final wording of a bill giving her the power to start the European Union exit process.
Opening a debate in parliament, Brexit minister David Davis called on lawmakers to throw out changes to the bill made by the upper house, arguing that the government needed freedom to operate without restriction to get a good deal. If successful, May could be ready to start a two-year negotiation period, set out in Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, as early as Tuesday, although her spokesman hinted that she might do it closer to the end of the month.
"We will not enter the negotiations with our hands tied," Davis told parliament. "We must pass this straightforward bill without further delay." May's task in negotiating Britain's EU exit was complicated on Monday by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanding a new independence referendum, to be held in late 2018 or early 2019, once the Brexit terms are clearer.
The debate on Article 50 comes after the government lost two key votes in parliament's upper chamber in recent weeks, adding conditions to the bill that said May must guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in Britain and give lawmakers more powers to reject the final terms she reaches with the EU.
To overturn those changes Davis must ward off a potential rebellion in the lower house, where May only has a slim majority, from a handful of pro-EU Conservatives who say parliament should be able to prevent the government walking away from negotiations and leaving without a deal. However, a source with knowledge of cross-party discussions on the legislation played down the likelihood of their success.
"I just don't think the numbers are there ... The prospects of either amendment passing (in the lower chamber) are slim," the source said.
After a two-hour debate and two votes, the bill will then be sent immediately back to the upper house for debate and approval, currently expected to start from 1930 GMT.
May's spokesman echoed Davis's call for lawmakers to approve the bill on Monday. "We have been clear that we want the bill to be passed unamended," he told reporters.
"We've also been clear throughout that we are determined parliament will be engaged all the way through the process and afterwards ... What we can't do is have anything which would tie the prime minister's hands as she goes into these negotiations."
The unelected upper house, wary of being seen as trying to block the outcome of last June's Brexit vote, is not expected to fight for their changes a second time, providing Davis strikes a conciliatory tone and acknowledges their concerns. If they approve the bill, it will then be sent to the Queen for symbolic approval which could be granted as early as Tuesday morning.