UK minister tells lawmakers not to delay Brexit
By Jill Lawless
LONDON — Britain’s top minister for leaving the European Union said Sunday that lawmakers should let Prime Minister Theresa May “get on with the job” of quitting the bloc, and the main opposition Brexit spokesman said he expects the divorce papers to be filed this week.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said lawmakers should pass a bill authorizing exit talks on Monday without amendments so the government can enter EU negotiations “with no strings attached.”
“However they voted in the referendum, the majority of people now want the prime minister to be able to get on with the job,” Davis said in a statement.
May has said for months that she would invoke Article 50 of the EU’s key treaty, the trigger for two years of exit negotiations, by March 31.
But she can’t do it until Parliament approves a bill authorizing the government to start the divorce process. The House of Commons and House of Lords are currently battling over the bill’s contents, with the Lords wanting it to include a provision that would give Parliament a vote on the final deal between Britain and the 27-nation bloc.
Members of the Lords have also called for explicit protection to the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. after Brexit.
If the unelected Lords digs in its heels, the parliamentary feud could delay the bill for several days. Ultimately, the elected Commons, which has already approved it, will prevail.
If the bill passes Monday, May could announce she is triggering Article 50 as early as Tuesday. The Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, told Sky News that he expected it to happen on Wednesday or Thursday.
As the trigger time approached, an influential committee of lawmakers accused the government of failing to plan for the possibility of talks ending after two years with no deal.
The all-party House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said Sunday that the complexity of the negotiations and the short two-year time frame made it a distinct possibility that Britain could crash out of the bloc in 2019 with no new relationship in place. That could mean tariffs and other barriers to trade with the EU and have a devastating effect on British businesses.
The committee said it had seen no evidence of “serious contingency planning” and called that a “dereliction of duty” by the government.
Davis told the BBC that the government was planning for “all the possible outcomes.” But he said he did not consider it “remotely likely” that there would be no deal.