UK Lawmakers Start Debate on Bill Authorizing Brexit Talks

JILL LAWLESS, AP

LONDON (AP) — The British minister in charge of quitting the European Union warned lawmakers Tuesday not to block the start of divorce talks, saying the country had passed a “a point of no return” in its decision to leave.

The House of Commons is holding two days of debate on a bill authorizing Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger two years of exit talks, as the government races to meet a self-imposed March 31 deadline to begin the process.

The government was forced to introduce legislation after a Supreme Court ruling last week torpedoed May’s effort to start the process of leaving the 28-nation bloc without a parliamentary vote.

The brief piece of legislation says that “the prime minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.”

Kicking off the debate, Brexit Secretary David Davis said legislators had to answer a simple question: “Do we trust the people or not?”

“It’s not a bill about whether the U.K. should leave the union or indeed about how it should do so,” he said. “It is simply about Parliament empowering the government to implement a decision already made — a point of no return already passed.”

Assuming lawmakers agree on Wednesday, the bill will move on to committee scrutiny and then Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords.

Ministers hope the European Union (Notice of Withdrawal) Bill can be pushed through both houses of Parliament by early March so the government can meet its March 31 deadline.

The main opposition Labour Party said it will try to amend the bill but not block it.

Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said that “as democrats, our party has to accept the result” of the referendum.

“Had the outcome been to remain, we would expect the result to have been honored, and that cuts both ways,” he said.

But some Labour lawmakers who represent areas of the country that voted to remain in the EU say they will respect their constituents’ wishes and vote against triggering the Brexit process.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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