Brexit: Another Step Closer to Reality
Last week the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled it would take an act of Parliament to authorize the government to begin negotiations to exit the European Union.
No problem, responded the House of Commons, whose members voted yesterday by a large majority to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to get Brexit negotiations under way. They voted for the government’s European Union Bill by a margin of 498 votes to 114.
The bill must now also pass in the House of Lords before it becomes law.
The leadership of the opposition Labour Party backed the measure, but 47 Labour MPs and one Conservative MP rebelled and voted against the bill. Several other opposition parties opposed the bill.
The prime minister set a deadline of March 31 for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would officially get talks with the EU started.
A year ago, few would have believed the UK would be facing its current state of affairs, but last June, British voters in a referendum backed Brexit by 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.
Before the referendum, former Prime Minister David Cameron and his associates thought the chances of a Brexit vote going through were close to zero. His main concern was to try and persuade the EU to give the UK a better deal.
Since then, British voters approved Brexit, Cameron’s government fell, and Cameron himself resigned from Parliament, leaving politics altogether.
The Brexit bill now heads to the House of Lords, where there are many opponents to the measure. The Lords could add amendments to the bill which would cause the measure to be shuttled back to the House of Commons for approval, a tactic which could delay the law’s eventual passage. This has prompted government ministers to pack the House with its supporters if the Lords attempt to frustrate Brexit. Other observers note, however, that the Lords generally defer to their elected counterparts in the House of Commons when, as is the case here, a bill passes by a large majority.