Tuesday 23 January 2018

May wins Commons vote for triggering Brexit

Theresa May. Photo: PA
Theresa May. Photo: PA

Jill Lawless

Britain's House of Commons voted yesterday to back Prime Minister Theresa May's March 31 deadline to start the UK's formal exit from the EU, after the government agreed to publish details of its negotiating plan.

Ministers have been reluctant to reveal much about their strategy or goals, saying that would weaken their hand in negotiations with the EU.

Fearing defeat through an opposition motion calling for ministers to disclose more details before the talks start, the government agreed to publish a plan. It also proposed a concession of its own by amending the motion to state parliament's support for triggering EU exit talks by March 31.

The motion passed by a vote of 448 to 75 after the Labour Party said it would accept the amendment.

Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said his party was not seeking to block Brexit but to bring "clarity, scrutiny and accountability" to the process.

Brexit secretary David Davis promised the government would set out "strategic plans", but said it would not reveal anything that could "jeopardize our negotiating position".

The vote marked the first major success in efforts by pro-EU lawmakers - including those in Conservative ranks - to influence the course of Brexit.

Some 48pc of electors voted to stay in the bloc, and many want to avoid a 'hard Brexit' in which the country leaves the EU single market in goods and services.

Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry implored the government to "include that 48pc" in plans for leaving the EU.

Both the government and the opposition said the motion did not affect a case at the Supreme Court over whether the government has the authority to start negotiations without legislation in parliament. Mrs May's government is appealing a lower court's ruling that lawmakers must get a say before Article 50 can be invoked.

The hearing is due to end today, with the judges giving their ruling next month.

Irish Independent

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