UK Lawmakers Press For |Vote on Brexit-EU Talks

     LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Conservative government was under pressure from lawmakers Wednesday to give Parliament a vote on the negotiating terms for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.
     The ministers, however, insisted it would not be wise to give too much away while Britain’s stance is still being worked out.
     The opposition Labour Party forced a parliamentary debate on a motion calling for lawmakers “properly to scrutinize” Britain’s position, as uncertainty about what kind of deal the U.K. is seeking with the EU rattles business leaders and currency markets.
     Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer agreed that Britons had voted June 23 to quit the 28-nation bloc but there was no consensus on the terms.
     “That question was not on the ballot paper,” Starmer said. “Where is the mandate on the terms?”
     Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty — triggering two years of official exit talks — by March 31, but has declined to reveal details of Britain’s negotiating hand.
     Opposition lawmakers — and some from May’s own Conservative Party — say Parliament should be given a role in approving Britain’s terms. They worry the government has decided to seek a “hard Brexit,” which means leaving the bloc’s single market of 500 million consumers in order to exercise more control over immigration.
     Signs that Britain may be headed for a “hard Brexit” have alarmed some business leaders and contributed to a slide in the pound, which has lost almost a fifth of its value against the dollar since June 23.
     The government says a vote in Parliament is not required. But in a bid to head off a Conservative revolt during Wednesday’s debate, May has promised that lawmakers will get a say, as long as it “does not undermine the negotiating position of the government.”
     Starmer welcomed May’s change of position, but said it was not enough.
     He said ministers had to “show that they actually have a coherent plan, agreed across the government, before they embark on the Article 50 process.”
     Brexit Secretary David Davis told lawmakers the government was still “putting together our negotiating strategy” and could not reveal too much.
     “We’ve had people talking about ‘hard’ Brexit and ‘soft’ Brexit, which means very little,” he said. “We have not started the negotiation with the European Union yet and there is a whole spectrum (of outcomes) from a free trade area to a customs union to the single-market arrangement.”
     Wednesday’s debate is expected to end in a vote, but it will not be binding on the government.
     
     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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