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May’s Government Clears First Hurdle towards ‘Brexit’ Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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MPs approved the Brexit bill, which would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and formally begin two years of exit negotiations, by a margin of 498 to 114. (AFP Photo)

London- British lawmakers, in the House of Common’s first vote on Brexit, overwhelmingly backed Article 50 on Wednesday allowing Prime Minister Theresa May the opportunity to kickstart Brexit talks. The proposal was contained in the Government’s European Union Bill.

Lawmakers voted by 498 to 114 in favor of allowing the bill to progress to the next, more detailed legislative stage. Earlier they rejected an attempt to throw out the bill, proposed by pro-European Union Scottish nationalists.

At just 143 words, the “European Union Notification of Withdrawal Bill” has been tightly drafted, making it difficult to amend either to delay the government’s plans or to tie its hands in the talks.

But May’s opponents are still trying, and dozens of amendments are scheduled for debate over three days in the House of Commons which begins on Monday.

The bill will then move to the Lords for debate from February 20, with the government hoping for their approval by March 7.

May’s government is seeking approval for a new law giving her the right to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty – the legal process for leaving the bloc – after the Supreme Court ruled she could not take that decision unilaterally, wrote AFP.

Dozens of Labor lawmakers rebelled, however, including Ian Murray, Labour’s only MP in Scotland, who said he did so with a “heavy heart”.

The session witnessed heated discussions, particularly after Britain’s former ambassador to the EU on Wednesday warned that the bloc would likely take a “hard line”, demanding an exit bill of 40-60 billion euros ($43-$64.5 billion) as part of drawn out negotiations.

“This is a humongous negotiation and project,” Ivan Rogers told MPs. “I think it will take years to get to the other side of it.”

In a speech on Tuesday, Ken Clarke, who was the only Conservative MP to vote against the Brexit bill, accused Leavers of pursuing a fantasy “wonderland”.