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British government introduces Article 50 bill authorizing Brexit

The government has given parliament only three days to debate the proposed legislation. Prime Minister Theresa May promised to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

The concise draft legislation, a two-clause bill published Thursday and entitled "European Union Notification of Withdrawal Bill," would confer on Prime Minister May the power to start negotiating the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

Brexit Minister David Davis called on lawmakers to quickly pass the bill and thereby enact the will of the people.

"The British people have made the decision to leave the EU," he said, alluding to the June 2016 referendum. "I trust that Parliament, which backed the referendum by six to one, will respect the decision taken by the British people and pass the legislation quickly."

Just three days to deliberate

The bill's publication leaves parliament just three days to debate the measure before a final House of Commons vote on February 8. Opposition parliamentarians have protested the short timetable, with some calling it "disgraceful," and promised to propose numerous amendments to the draft, which could slow down its passage.

However, the bill is expected to gain approval by the lower house, where conservatives have a majority of 16 seats and main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party has indicated he will call on his MPs to back the measure, albeit while proposing amendments protecting workers' rights.

The bill would then pass to the House of Lords, which does not face a time restriction imposed by the government as in the case of the lower house.  However, it is customary for the Lords to reject legislation only in the most extreme circumstances. After approval by both houses, the bill would need to be signed off by Queen Elizabeth II in the final step before May could trigger Article 50.

One step closer to Brexit

The British Supreme Court's ruling this past Tuesday forced May's government to seek parliamentary approval before beginning the UK's exit from the 28-member state bloc.

The prime minister has promised to deliver a white paper detailing the proposed negotiations between London and Brussels, but there has been no word on when such a document will be revealed.

cmb/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

 

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