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World

AFP
June 13, 2018

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British govt wins vote on Brexit ‘no deal’

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly avoided a major blow to her Brexit strategy Tuesday after MPs rejected a plan that would have given parliament a veto on the final deal negotiated with Brussels.

The House of Commons voted 324 to 298 to defeat an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would have removed her government’s power to unilaterally walk away from talks with Brussels.

But in extraordinary scenes, ministers were forced to offer last-minute compromises to pro-European MPs before holding private talks in corners of the chamber as the debate raged on.May had feared a rebellion by her Conservative MPs over the motion, one of 15 submitted by the unelected upper House of Lords on which lawmakers will vote over the coming two days. The bill will then go back to the Lords on Monday.

The pro-European cause was boosted when junior justice minister Phillip Lee, a close personal friend of the prime minister, resigned shortly before the debate in order to back the veto amendment.

May had earlier warned that defeat would weaken her hand in exit talks, while a string of eurosceptic MPs stood up to accuse the rebels of trying to thwart Brexit. “Anything that undermines the government at home will make negotiations with the EU more difficult,” May told a meeting of her cabinet.

Talks with Brussels have stalled over the fraught issue of the Irish border, but both sides are hoping to agree a final deal by October in time for the break on March 29, 2019.The EU (Withdrawal) Bill would formally end Britain’s membership of the bloc and transfer more than 40 years of European law onto the British statute books.

May is seeking to overturn 14 of 15 amendments passed by the Lords earlier this year, but has a fight on her hands due to her fragile majority in the 650-seat Commons.

She has already agreed to give MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal, but says it will be a yes or no decision — meaning that rejecting it could see Britain crash out of the EU.The Lords amendment would have given parliament the power to decide what happened next, with the possibility of going back to the negotiating table or even staying in the bloc.

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