May Will Let U.K. Parliament ‘Have a Say’ on Brexit Trigger

Negative Shock in the Aftermath of the Brexit Decision
  • Article 50 won’t be invoked before end of 2016, spokesman says
  • Unclear whether lawmakers will get to vote on trigger

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to give Parliament “a say” on starting the formal process for withdrawing from the European Union, her spokesman said, though he declined to say whether lawmakers would be able to vote on the issue or simply ask questions.

“When Parliament will have a say will be something that will be resolved over the coming months,” the spokesman, Greg Swift, told reporters in London on Tuesday. “At the moment, the focus is on establishing what it is that the country is going to do going forwards. We need to have a clear negotiating position; we need clear objectives for our negotiations. That’s the priority.”

May has said she won’t trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure for beginning a withdrawal, before the end of the year. Her office has repeatedly said that she’s under no obligation to get Parliament’s agreement before she does so. However this position has been challenged by some lawyers, and the High Court is due to hear a case in October. Giving Parliament “a say” could simply mean announcing the move in an oral statement, after which lawmakers would get to question her.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday that she planned to activate the exit mechanism without a vote in the House of Commons, prompting a backlash from opposition parties.

“The logic of saying the prime minister can trigger Article 50 without first setting out to Parliament the terms and basis upon which her government seeks to negotiate, indeed without even indicating the red lines she will seek to protect, would be to diminish Parliament,” Labour’s spokesman on Europe, Barry Gardiner, said Saturday in a statement.

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