Lower House votes in favour of May's Brexit Bill

LONDON • British lawmakers have voted in favour of the government's legislative blueprint for Brexit, marking a victory for Prime Minister Theresa May over political opponents who want a softer approach to leaving the European Union.

But the legislation will now face scrutiny from Parliament's largely pro-EU Upper House, where Mrs May's party does not have a majority, which will intensify efforts to force a rerun of a 2016 referendum, and water down or even stop the divorce.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was approved by a 324 to 295 vote in the Lower House on Wednesday - a milestone on the long road towards cementing the legal foundations of Britain's departure from the bloc. The Bill repeals the 1972 law that made Britain a member of the EU, and transfers EU laws into British ones.

Brexit Minister David Davis said: "(The Bill) ensures that, on day one, we will have a statute book that works, delivering the smooth and orderly exit desired by people and businesses across the United Kingdom and being delivered by this government."

The Bill has become the focal point for months of divisive debate about what type of EU divorce Britain should seek, severely testing Mrs May's ability to deliver on her exit strategy without a parliamentary majority. But despite one embarrassing parliamentary defeat, several government concessions and rebellion from within her own party, Mrs May's Conservative lawmakers overcame opposition from the Labour Party and others.

The Upper House, the House of Lords, will now begin months of scrutiny of the Bill before it can become law. Any changes made by the Lords will require approval from the Lower House, and the whole process could take until May to complete.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Lower House votes in favour of May's Brexit Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe