May em­barks on Brexit clash

Gov­ern­ment faces po­ten­tial de­feat on key amend­ments to bill if Con­ser­va­tive MPS ally with main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, in­creas­ing risks for PM’S per­ilously weak mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment

The Gulf Today - - World -

LON­DON: Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May be­gins a ma­jor par­lia­men­tary bat­tle over Brexit on Tues­day, fac­ing com­pet­ing de­mands by MPS to change her strat­egy as ten­sions rise among her scan­dal-hit min­is­ters.

MPS will have their irst chance to scru­ti­nise the EU With­drawal Bill, which would for­mally end Bri­tain’s mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union and trans­fer four decades of EU leg­is­la­tion into UK law.

The gov­ern­ment faces po­ten­tial de­feat on key amend­ments to the bill if rebel Con­ser­va­tive MPS ally with the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, in­creas­ing the risks for May’s per­ilously weak mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment said it would en­sure le­gal cer­tainty when Bri­tain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

But crit­ics warn the EU With­drawal Bill − also known as the Re­peal Bill − rep­re­sents a power-grab by min­is­ters, while oth­ers see the leg­is­la­tion as a chance to shape May’s Brexit pol­icy.

Law­mak­ers − in­clud­ing mem­bers of May’s own Con­ser­va­tive party − have tabled 188 pages of amend­ments to the bill, which will be de­bated in groups over eight days spread over the com­ing weeks.

The show­down comes as the prime min­is­ter, weak­ened by a June elec­tion in which she lost her par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, strug­gles to as­sert her au­thor­ity even over her own cab­i­net.

Two min­is­ters have quit in the past fort­night − one over sleaze, the other ac­cused of ef­fec­tively run­ning her own for­eign pol­icy − while two oth­ers stand ac­cused of in­struct­ing May how to run Brexit.

The premier is also un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from Brussels to come up with a inan­cial of­fer to keep ne­go­ti­a­tions on track, with a crunch sum­mit of EU lead­ers loom­ing in mid-de­cem­ber.

Ster­ling dropped on Mon­day amid re­ports that dozens of Con­ser­va­tive MPS were back­ing a move to oust May.

In the irst skir­mish on the Re­peal Bill on Tues­day, the op­po­si­tion Labour party will seek a vote on an amend­ment that would ex­tend Bri­tain’s mem­ber­ship of the EU’S sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union, and the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, into a tran­si­tion pe­riod.

The gov­ern­ment said it wants an im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod of around two years af­ter Brexit to stop an eco­nom­i­cally dam­ag­ing “cliff-edge” − but in­sists Bri­tain will be fully out of the EU.

To that ef­fect, it has tabled its own amend­ment putting the date of Bri­tain’s de­par­ture onto the face of the bill, which is likely to be de­bated later on Tues­day, although not taken to a vote.

But this has an­gered some Con­ser­va­tive MPS.

One of them, for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Do­minic Grieve, said it was “ut­terly point­less and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive” and would re­move any lexibility in case the ne­go­ti­a­tions were de­layed.

The tough­est votes are ex­pected in the com­ing weeks, as Grieve and other Con­ser­va­tive MPS seek to re­duce the pow­ers the bill gives to min­is­ters to change EU laws as they are trans­ferred across.

On the eve of the de­bate, the gov­ern­ment made an ap­par­ent con­ces­sion to rebels by promis­ing a sep­a­rate piece of leg­is­la­tion that would al­low par­lia­ment to have a bind­ing vote on any Brexit agree­ment.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s chief Brexit spokesman, said the pro­posal was “a sig­ni­icant climb­down from a weak gov­ern­ment on the verge of de­feat.”

How­ever, Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis con­ceded that even if MPS failed to back that leg­is­la­tion − the With­drawal Agree­ment and Im­ple­men­ta­tion Bill, Bri­tain would still leave the EU on March 29, 2019.


Theresa May poses for a photograph with her hus­band Philip, the Lord Mayor of Lon­don Charles Bow­man and wife Sa­man­tha, at the Lord Mayor’s Ban­quet at the Guild­hall, in Lon­don, on Mon­day.

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