UK Parliament votes in favour of beginning Brexit process

RSTV Bureau

Theresa May in IndiaThe Parliament of United Kingdom has overwhelmingly voted in favour of allowing the government to begin Brexit negotiations, moving a step closer to Britain’s final separation from the EU.

On Wednesday, members of House of Commons voted by 498 to 114 to advance the bill that would give Prime Minister Theresa May the authority to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — the formal process of leaving the EU.

“History has been made,” British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tweeted after the voting.

The government was expected to win despite the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party voting against it.

The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

Earlier, May, who was under pressure from the Opposition and some of her own rebel MPs, had confirmed that she will be publishing a White Paper on her Brexit strategy.

“I can inform my Right Hon Friend and the House that that White Paper will be published tomorrow (Thursday),” May told the House on Wednesday.

“The White Paper will reflect the plan already set out by the Prime Minister in her Brexit speech,” a Downing Street spokesperson told reporters.

Ahead of the voting, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had issued a three-line whip, a strong disciplinary order, to his MPs to back the bill, but many defied the whip.

Meanwhile, MPs continued the debate on the so-called Brexit Bill for a second day. The Bill will give May the authority to invoke Article 50 and trigger the official Brexit negotiations with the EU.

David Davis, minister for exiting the European Union, had opened the debate in the House of Commons with a clear message to MPs that they must implement a decision made by the people in the June 2016 referendum with 51.9 per cent wanting to leave the EU and 48.1 per cent wanting to remain within the 28-nation economic bloc.

The Opposition Labour party will support the final vote on the bill but will try to amend it, including calling for a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.

The bill will now return to the Commons next week for the committee stage, when Opposition parties will try to push through these amendments.

The bill was tabled last week after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs and peers must have a say before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty could be triggered. It rejected the UK government’s argument that May had sufficient executive powers to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.

(With inputs from agencies)