Scottish National Party suggests amendments watering down May's draft law to trigger Brexit

The Scottish National Party proposed four amendments to British Prime Minister Theresa May's draft law to officially trigger Brexit.
The Scottish National Party proposed four amendments to British Prime Minister Theresa May's draft law to officially trigger Brexit.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The Scottish National Party proposed four amendments to British Prime Minister Theresa May's draft law to officially trigger Brexit, adding to opposition attempts to influence the nature of Britain's departure from the European Union.

The SNP's amendments, the first of 50 they've promised to put forward, include a call for a "reset" clause that would maintain the UK's EU membership if agreement on an exit deal isn't reached with the European Council.

The others would guarantee the rights of EU residents in Britain, force the premier to seek agreement on her objectives from devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and demand a formal government document laying out its Brexit strategy - something Mrs May already agreed to do this week.

"The SNP will lead the charge in bringing the hard Brexit brigade back to the house to answer over their lack of plans," the party's international affairs spokesman and former leader Alex Salmond said in the statement. "These tabled amendments are to address some of the ongoing and abiding concerns of EU citizens, devolved administrations and respect for Parliament in its most fundamental and basic duty."

After the Supreme Court on Tuesday (Jan 24) ruled that Mrs May needs parliamentary approval to start Brexit talks, the government on Thursday (Jan 26) published a tightly-drawn, 137-word Bill to allow her to invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the formal trigger.

Mrs May wants to push the draft law through the lower chamber, the House of Commons, within two weeks in order to remain on track to begin the divorce by the end of March. The Bill must pass through at least five separate stages in both the Commons and the upper chamber, the House of Lords.

Because amendments must fall within the scope of a Bill, the shorter it is, the less chance there is for alterations.

Even so, the SNP joins the main opposition Labour Party and Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas in seeking to change the draft law. It's up to House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide which amendments to put to debate.