British government presents Brexit bill to parliament

Opposition MPs argue the time given to debate the notification of withdrawal legislation is not sufficient.

Photo by: Getty Images
Photo by: Getty Images

The UK Supreme Court ruled on January 24 that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot use executive powers to start the process of Britain’s exit from the EU without seeking prior approval from parliament.

Britain on Thursday published the legislation it will use to seek parliamentary approval for triggering the Article 50 legal process for leaving the European Union. Opposition Members of Parliament are expected to table several amendments.

Brexit Secretary David Davis presented the government’s Article 50 bill which was short, with two clauses only.

Parliament will debate the text of the bill on January 31 and February 1, the government said on Thursday, outlining the first steps of the legal process to take Britain out of the EU. The third reading of the notification of withdrawal bill will be on February 8.

Labour MPs complained that the time given to debate the bill was unacceptable and nothing in comparison to the duration afforded to other bills in the past, the BBC reported on its live blog.​

Earlier this week, Britain's Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May must seek parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, rejecting the government's argument that it should be able to do so unilaterally.

The ruling is not expected to derail May's plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March. Once Article 50 is in play, it is expected to take two years of complex negotiations with the EU on the terms of Britain's exit and its new trading arrangements.

However, opposition parties have said they will try to amend the legislation to make the government reveal more details of its Brexit plans.

They have also asked May and the government to present a White Paper – which will delineate a rather detailed plan on managing the country’s withdrawal from the EU – before the third reading of the bill.  

Full text of the bill

"A bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the EU.

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Power to notify withdrawal from the EU (1) The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the EU. (2) This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment."

TRTWorld and agencies