2 Feb 2017

Brexit bill clears first hurdle by huge majority

10:11 am on 2 February 2017

The British government's plan to take the UK out of the European Union easily cleared its first hurdle in parliament.

MPs voted by a large majority to allow Prime Minister Theresa May to get Brexit negotiations under way.

MPs approved by a large majority the first stage of legislation allowing Brexit talks to get under way.

MPs voted by 498 to 114 in favour of allowing the bill to progress to the next, more detailed legislative stage. Photo: AFP / PRU

The government is seeking approval for a new law giving Mrs May the right to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty - the legal process for leaving the bloc - after the Supreme Court ruled she could not take that decision unilaterally.

The bill could complete the legislative process by 7 March.

Mrs May wants to begin exit negotiations with the EU by 31 March, starting two years of talks.

British MP's voted by 498 to 114 in favour of allowing the bill to progress to the next, more detailed legislative stage.

The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrat leadership opposed the bill, while 47 Labour MPs and Tory ex-chancellor Ken Clarke rebelled.

Earlier, MPs rejected an attempt to throw out the bill, proposed by pro-EU Scottish nationalists.

The Scottish National Party's Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins described the vote in a statement as "a devastating act of sabotage on Scotland's economy".

A majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland in last summer's referendum backed remaining in the EU, while voters in England and Wales supported Brexit.

The bill was published last week, after the Supreme Court decided MPs and peers must have a say before Article 50 could be triggered.

It rejected the government's argument that Mrs May had sufficient powers to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.

Talks with the EU are expected to last up to two years, with the UK predicted to leave the 28-member organisation in 2019.

- Reuters / BBC

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