MPs reject first set of amendments to Brexit law

The UK government has rejected a plan that would require it to report back to Parliament on how Brexit negotiations are proceeding

David Jones, shadow Brexit minister, rejected the amendment along with MPs House of Commons
David Jones, shadow Brexit minister, rejected the amendment along with MPs House of Commons

UK MPs on Monday rejected the first set of proposed amendments to legislation that would give Prime Minister Theresa May the right to notify the European Union of Britain's intention to leave the bloc.

During seven hours of debate, lawmakers voted against a series of attempts by pro-EU lawmakers to attach extra conditions to May's plan to begin divorce talks by March 31.

Monday's votes were on the issues of parliamentary scrutiny of the withdrawal process and the involvement of Britain's devolved administrations.

Dozens of amendments have been tabled by Labour and opposition MPs in the hope of getting enough cross-party support to secure better parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit, the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, access to the single market and a more meaningful vote at the end of the two-year negotiations.

However, the House of Commons opposed a Labour amendment that would have forced May to make regular reports back to parliament every two months by 333 to 284 – a majority of 49 for the government.

Another Labour amendment calling for the leaders of the devolved administrations to be consulted and have their views taken into account before any final Brexit deal also failed by 333 votes to 276 – an even bigger government majority of 57.

Further votes, on which the government could face greater opposition, are due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Earlier on Monday, May warned lawmakers not to obstruct the will of the British people with amendments to her Brexit legislation, saying she wanted to get on with divorce talks with the EU.

"Our European partners now want to get on with the negotiations, so do I, and so does this house," May told parliament before the debate began.

"The message is clear to all, this house has spoken and now is not the time to obstruct the democratically expressed wishes of the British people. It is time to get on with leaving the European Union."

May has said she expects to win approval from lawmakers in time to stick to her end of the March deadline for triggering Britain's exit from the EU.

On Tuesday lawmakers will continue their scrutiny of the legislation, debating amendments on the final terms of Britain's withdrawal from the EU as well as those calling for the publication of assessments on the impact of Brexit.

The bill is expected to complete its passage through the lower House of Commons on Wednesday. It will then be passed to the upper House of Lords.

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