Brexit White Paper to be out today

A law allowing Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Britain's exit from the European Union cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday, paving the way for the government to launch divorce talks by the end of March.VIDEO: REUTERS

LONDON • The British government will publish a White Paper today, setting out its plan for leaving the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament yesterday.

White papers are policy documents produced by the government that set out their proposals for future legislation.

Last week, Mrs May promised a Brexit White Paper and lawmakers had called for the government to publish it before a vote on triggering Brexit is held in Parliament.

MPs are expected to approve today the first stage of a Bill empowering Mrs May to start pulling Britain out of the European Union.

Before the vote, MPs were to debate the Bill that would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning two years of exit negotiations. It will be the first Brexit-related vote in the House of Commons.

The opposition Labour Party has said it will not block the Bill and, although dozens of its MPs could rebel, it was expected to easily pass the second debate stage scheduled for next week.

Mrs May is under intense pressure to push the Bill through quickly, having promised EU leaders she will trigger Article 50 by the end of next month. By publishing the Brexit strategy paper, she opens it to parliamentary scrutiny while the Article 50 legislation makes its way through Parliament.

"It will reflect the government's plan for Brexit," Mrs May's spokeswoman told reporters.

The government had earlier sought to exclude Parliament, insisting it had the power to trigger Article 50 on its own, but the Supreme Court last week ruled it must consult lawmakers.

Most MPs had campaigned to stay in the EU ahead of last June's referendum, but as debate on the Bill began on Tuesday, many said they would accept the result.

The Bill could be delayed in the upper House of Lords, where Mrs May's Conservative Party does not have a majority - and where the unelected peers have no fear of a public backlash.

A new survey shows MPs who campaigned to leave the EU are relatively united in what they want - whereas those who were on the other side have more diverse views.

Some 72 per cent of Leavers favour controlling immigration or not paying into the EU budget over retaining access to Europe's single market. This reflects Mrs May's position. She has said she wants to end the free movement of people from the EU, a demand she admits is incompatible with keeping membership of the single market.

The vast majority of Leavers (86 per cent) also believe Britain will be able to make up for any loss in trade with the EU through other deals, whereas 71 per cent of Remainers believe it cannot.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Brexit White Paper to be out today'. Print Edition | Subscribe