U.K. Lawmakers Debate March Deadline for Triggering Brexit

  • Premier May agrees to Labour calls to reveal her Brexit plan
  • Government: Article 50 opponents are ‘profoundly undemocratic’

Market Implications of Brexit Negotiations

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government challenged its political opponents to back its plan to trigger the start of Brexit by March next year, as lawmakers prepared to vote on the timetable for leaving the European Union for the first time.

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Members of Parliament were debating a motion on Wednesday that backs the prime minister’s schedule for beginning the formal Brexit process. This requires the U.K. to give notice of its departure from the bloc under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, something May says she will do by the end of March.

The premier has promised to set out her plan for Brexit and give lawmakers the chance to scrutinize it before she triggers Article 50, but some opposition members of the House of Commons have already said they will vote against the non-binding motion on Wednesday. Britons voted by 52 percent to 48 percent in June to quit the bloc.

“The vote tonight will be the first opportunity for members of this house to decide whether or not they support the government’s timetable of triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017,” David Lidington, a senior minister in May’s cabinet, told Parliament before the full debate began. Any lawmaker who votes against the motion “will in my view be seeking to thwart the outcome of the referendum in the most profoundly undemocratic fashion.”

Opening the main debate for the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer said he does not want to “frustrate” the Brexit process “or to delay the timetable,” but he called on the government to produce a minimum plan for what it wanted to achieve in talks with the EU. “We’re not going to have a situation where the government seeks a vote in a vacuum or produces a late, vague plan,” Starmer told lawmakers.

May’s team must set out a strategy that includes “enough detail and clarity to end the circus of uncertainty” on the U.K.’s membership of the EU single market, customs union, and any proposal for transitional arrangements to soften the blow after leaving the EU, Starmer said.

— With assistance by Alex Morales, and Thomas Penny

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