Par­lia­ment turns up heat on May

De­bate on Brexit bill be­gins; amend­ments pil­ing up

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - WORLD - By Jill Lawless The Associated Press

LON­DON — A frag­ile gov­ern­ment, a leg­isla­tive mine­field and a jit­tery econ­omy are turn­ing up the ten­sion as Bri­tain tries to turn its vote to leave the Euro­pean Union into a real­ity.

Exit ne­go­ti­a­tions with the bloc are stalled on divorce terms, and on Tues­day Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment bat­tled to push its cen­tral piece of Brexit leg­is­la­tion through a di­vided Par­lia­ment.

The Euro­pean Union (With­drawal) Bill is de­signed to pre­vent a le­gal vac­uum by con­vert­ing some 12,000 EU laws into Bri­tish statute on the day the U.K. leaves the bloc in March 2019.

But many law­mak­ers claim that the bill gives the gov­ern­ment too much power to amend leg­is­la­tion with­out par­lia­men­tary scru­tiny. And op­po­nents of Brexit, both from the op­po­si­tion and from May’s Con­ser­va­tive Party, will try to amend it to soften the terms of Bri­tain’s exit from the bloc.

The House of Com­mons be­gan eight days of de­bate on the bill Tues­day, and law­mak­ers have filed hun­dreds of pro­posed amend­ments, each one a chal­lenge for a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment that re­lies on sup­port from a small North­ern Ire­land party to avoid de­feat on key votes.

A group of pro-eu Con­ser­va­tives is threat­en­ing to de­feat the gov­ern­ment un­less there are con­ces­sions to avoid a “hard Brexit,” that is, an exit with­out a deal on seam­less new trade re­la­tions that many busi­nesses fear will cause eco­nomic tur­moil.

The gov­ern­ment has tried to mol­lify re­bel­lious law­mak­ers by promis­ing that Par­lia­ment will get a vote on any Brexit deal agreed on be­tween Bri­tain and the bloc be­fore Bri­tain leaves in March 2019.

But Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis said the vote will be a “take it or leave it” choice: If Par­lia­ment re­jects the deal, Bri­tain will crash out of the 28-na­tion bloc with­out an agree­ment.

Many busi­nesses see that as a worst-case sce­nario, as it would bring tar­iffs and red tape that could see trade with the bloc grind to a halt. On Tues­day, a group of law­mak­ers warned that there could be cat­a­strophic con­se­quences if Bri­tain fails to put a new cus­toms sys­tem in place be­fore the U.K. leaves the EU.

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