The UK government published a draft legislation in Parliament on Thursday that would allow it to start the process of leaving the EU, two days after the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot unilaterally trigger Britain’s exit from the 28-nation bloc and needs to seek Parliament’s approval.
The European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Bill was published in the House of Commons. Described as among the shortest notifications to be published in the British Parliament, the two-clause Bill had its first reading in the House as a procedural step that allows it to be printed.
“The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU,” the Bill reads.
It is intended to give Prime Minister May the go-ahead to invoke Article 50, which will trigger the official two-year period of negotiations for Britain’s exit from the EU after a June 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit.
May had hoped to invoke the Article without having to seek parliamentary approval but a legal challenge concluded in the UK Supreme Court earlier this week directed her to acquire the consent of both Houses of British Parliament.
MPs will debate the new Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday, the government has said, with a third day of debate and a vote on February 8. It will then go to the House of Lords to be discussed.
The Theresa May-led government will hope this process can take place smoothly for the British Prime Minister to adhere to her declared timetable of wanting to officially notify the EU of Britain’s exit plans by the end of March.
However, there have been indications that the Opposition Labour party will be demanding some changes to the Bill. The Labour party wants to see guarantees of a vote on a final deal and regular updates to Parliament on the process being made in EU negotiations.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said, “The British people have made the decision to leave the EU and this government is determined to get on with the job of delivering it”.
“So today, we have introduced a Bill in Parliament which will allow us to formally trigger Article 50 by the end of March. 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,” Davis said.
Pro-Remain MPs are expected to begin tabling dozens of amendments in order to shape the direction of negotiations, which pro-Leave MPs claim are part of a plot to sabotage Brexit.
On Wednesday, May promised a White Paper will be published within weeks to formally set out the government’s Brexit strategy, seen as an attempt to counter opposition to her proposed Brexit timetable.
On Tuesday, the government lost a landmark legal challenge after the Supreme Court ruled that May cannot unilaterally trigger the process of Britain’s exit from the EU and must seek Parliament’s approval.