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1ST LEAD May defies Conservative rebels over vote on Brexit final terms By Bill Smith, dpa

Europe
13.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - Prime Minister Theresa May rejected calls by rebels in her Conservative party and opposition lawmakers to amend a parliamentary bill to allow a binding vote to enshrine the terms of Brexit in legislation.

May‘s defiance means she could suffer her first defeat in parliament on Brexit legislation if, as expected, lawmakers in the Commons, the elected lower house, vote on the amendment to her EU (Withdrawal) Bill on Wednesday night.

May has promised a "meaningful vote" on Brexit but the rebels, led by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, tabled an amendment to "require the final deal with the EU to be approved by statute passed by parliament."

In a bid to placate the rebels, Brexit Secretary David Davis made a written promise early Wednesday to allow votes on at least two agreements expected to be concluded before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

"We were very clear that we won‘t commence any statutory instruments until that meaningful vote [promised by Davis] has taken place," May told parliament.

She said the amendment, by requiring the EU withdrawal agreement to become law before other Brexit-related legal changes are enacted, could prolong the process, "which could mean that we are not able to have the orderly and smooth exit from the European Union that we wish to have."

The rebels claim they have enough cross-party support to win a vote against May‘s minority government, which relies on 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland‘s Democratic Unionist Party in key votes.

Labour, the largest opposition party, will back the amendment if it goes to a vote, said shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer.

"The terms of our future are not for the government alone to determine," Starmer said on Twitter.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Labour‘s Chuka Umunna and Scottish National Party lawmaker Stephen Gethins led a rally of the pro-EU group Open Britain near parliament early Wednesday to support the amendment to "put sovereignty at the heart of the bill."

"Given the lack of respect shown for parliament so far, we can‘t trust anything ministers say about allowing MPs a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal," Brake said.

He said passing the amendment was "the only way to guarantee that MPs will have the ability to vote on Brexit on behalf of our constituents."

"Ministers have treated the sovereignty of our parliament with contempt throughout the Brexit process," Lucas said. "That has to change.

"Brexit is already making Britain worse off, with price rises hitting working families and putting our rights at risk," she said.

"Parliament needs to have the right to reject a Brexit deal that will impoverish our country."

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill, commonly known as the "great repeal bill," is designed to incorporate all EU-related legislation into English law.

May has made the bill the centrepiece of her legislative agenda for the next two years, saying it will "provide certainty for individuals and businesses" during the Brexit process.

 

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