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Lawmakers will have UK's last word in Brexit deal

December 13, 2017

In a major blow to Theresa May's government, the British parliament has granted itself the power to determine the fate of a final Brexit deal. The move follows the European Parliament's warning on London back-pedaling.


In a major blow to Theresa May's power, the British parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of an amendment that gives the legislative body the power to approve or reject any Brexit deal made by the government.

With a group of May's Conservative lawmakers rebelling against her Brexit vision, parliament voted 309 to 305 in favor of amending the government's EU (Withdrawal) Bill, a move which observers believe will undermine the government's ability to negotiate a deal.

Read more: Brexit: What's the 'no deal' fallout for the UK and EU?

A government spokeswoman said that while British negotiators were disappointed with vote's results, it will not prevent them from moving forward and making legal preparations for the UK to leave the bloc.

"This amendment does not prevent us from preparing our statute book for exit day. We will now determine whether further changes are needed to the (EU withdrawal) bill to ensure it fulfills its vital purpose," she said after the vote.

'Taking back control'

The Labour Party supported the amendment to the bill, with shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer saying that the measure ensures the UK's future is not determined solely by the government.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed the vote as a victory for parliament in deciding the terms in which the UK will depart the EU.

Read more: Progress in Brexit talks, but Britain still divided

"This defeat is a humiliating loss of authority for the government on the eve of the European Council meeting," Corbyn said.

"Theresa May has resisted democratic accountability. Her refusal to listen means she will now have to accept Parliament taking back control."

EU parliament backs progress

Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to start the next round of Brexit negotiations based on last week's preliminary agreement. The EU warned, however, that the UK must "fully and faithfully" turn the deal into a concrete exit treaty.

Read more: Brexit's side effects for life-saving medicines

The vote was carried by a wide margin of 556 votes to 62. The resolution included a biting critique for Britain's Brexit Minister David Davis, saying some of his recent inflammatory remarks "risk undermining" the entire process.

'Statement of intent'

Over the weekend, Davis told the BBC that last week's agreement was merely a "statement of intent," that was not "legally enforceable," prompting considerable ire from Brussels. Davis also said his government would not pay its €40 billion to €45 billion ($47 billion to $52 billion) divorce bill if Britain failed to gain what it wanted from a new trade deal.

The EU immediately warned the UK about backtracking on its promises, as it could affect future relations between Britain and the other 27 members of the bloc.

Read more: With Brexit, Northern Ireland peace hangs in the balance

"While I am optimistic as far as the second phase is concerned, we have to ensure that the joint report presented last week is fully and faithfully translated into the wording of the exit treaty," EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said after Wednesday's vote.

"No discussions on future relations will take place if the principles contained are not implemented."

ls,es/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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