British Parliament gets Brexit vote in concession by leaders

In eight scheduled debates, lawmakers will consider 186 pages of amendments.
In eight scheduled debates, lawmakers will consider 186 pages of amendments. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (NYTIMES) - British leaders agreed on Monday (Nov 13) to allow Parliament to debate, amend and vote on the terms of its exit from the European Union, in a concession to rebellious lawmakers who have demanded more power over the process.

Brexit Minister David Davis made the announcement just as Parliament was preparing for debates on Tuesday over a Bill on Britain's withdrawal from the EU, or Brexit. In eight scheduled debates, lawmakers will consider 186 pages of amendments, including some that would stop the government from concluding a deal without their express approval.

Davis' announcement seemed intended to soften lawmakers' resistance before the debates and speed the passage of the withdrawal Bill, which would transfer existing European law to the British statute books.

The concession underlines Prime Minister Theresa May's weakness as she tries to allay the fears of big business and win support for the legislation. Within her own Conservative Party, as many as 40 lawmakers are prepared to support a no-confidence vote that would remove her from her post, The Sunday Times reported, just eight short of the number needed.

Meanwhile, in a letter leaked to the The Mail on Sunday, two Cabinet secretaries, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, have pressed May to begin preparing to leave the EU in the absence of any transition agreement. They urged her to set a firm date of June 30, 2021, for that to happen.

She also faces a frontal challenge from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has called her too weak to stand up to "no-deal extremists" within her own party.

Keir Starmer, Labour's Brexit spokesman, welcomed the news that Parliament would be allowed to vote on the agreement, and said the government must accept a range of further amendments that Labour lawmakers would propose on Tuesday, in an effort to protect British jobs.

Labour lawmakers pointed out that the concession does not give Parliament power over a "no deal" scenario urged by right-wing Tories, in which Britain would leave the bloc with no transition agreement.

May also faced pressure Monday from European business leaders, who urged her in a meeting at No. 10 Downing St to avoid a "cliff edge" exit by agreeing to remain in the customs union and the single market.