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House of Commons to back triggering EU divorce talks

  • Published at 10:38 pm December 7th, 2016
House of Commons to back triggering EU divorce talks
While the British government tries to prevent parliament voting on its plan to trigger the country’s exit from the European Union, Reuters research indicates the lower house would in fact support its move, based on lawmakers’ recent statements. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she aims to launch the two-year negotiating period for the country’s departure from the 28-nation bloc by the end of March and that the referendum vote in June to leave the EU provides sufficient instruction. The High Court has said parliamentary approval is required to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty, governing the EU exit process. The government is challenging that decision in the Supreme Court, which began hearing the case on Monday. If the government loses, the House of Commons lower chamber could in theory block Brexit, because a majority of lawmakers supported staying in the EU at the referendum.

The numbers

At least 64 Conservative and Labour lawmakers in the lower house have said they plan to vote to trigger Article 50 if parliament is given a say. Lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, Ulster Unionist Party, and UK Independence Party, who number 11 in total, will also back it. A further 98 members of parliament are either whips, tasked with getting lawmakers to vote the way the government wants, or ministers, and are therefore required to vote with the government. In addition, 129 others from the two main parties backed quitting the EU, bringing the total to 302. Seventy-three lawmakers have said they respect the outcome of the referendum or would not ultimately block the start of divorce talks, indicating they could either vote for or abstain. While the government in theory needs 322 votes to be sure of passing a bill, any abstentions would bring that number down. If all 73 abstained, the number needed to pass the bill would drop to 285, so it would still easily go through. A total of just 22 remain-backing lawmakers from the Conservative and Labour parties have said they either definitely would or may vote against triggering Article 50, depending on what information they have at the time. The Scottish National Party’s 54 lawmakers, all of whom represent areas which voted to remain, and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, who are seeking a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, have also said they may vote against. Last week a Liberal Democrat who campaigned on a promise to vote against starting Brexit talks won a parliamentary seat previously held by May’s Conservatives and members of other small parties may also vote against.