Lawmakers Try to Stop Brexit 10/22 06:07
British lawmakers from across the political spectrum were plotting Tuesday
to put the brakes on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's drive to push his European
Union divorce bill through the House of Commons in just three days, potentially
scuttling the government's hopes of delivering Brexit by Oct. 31.
LONDON (AP) -- British lawmakers from across the political spectrum were
plotting Tuesday to put the brakes on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's drive to
push his European Union divorce bill through the House of Commons in just three
days, potentially scuttling the government's hopes of delivering Brexit by Oct.
The bill faces two votes Tuesday, with lawmakers first being asked to
approve it in principle, followed by a vote on the government's schedule for
debate and possible amendments.
While many analysts expect the bill to be approved, lawmakers may reject the
three-day timetable because of concerns it doesn't provide enough time for
scrutiny of the 115-page document, which sets out the terms of Britain's
departure from the 28-nation bloc.
Major bills usually take weeks or months to pass through Parliament, giving
time for line-by-line scrutiny by lawmakers.
Green lawmaker Caroline Lucas tweeted that lawmakers "had more time to
debate the Wild Animals in Circuses Act (affecting 19 animals) than they will
to decide the future of 65 million people. It's hard to think of anything which
better illustrates this Govt's contempt for people, Parliament & democracy."
Ominously for the government, some lawmakers who support the Brexit deal
said they would vote against the short timetable.
"Unless you are prepared to contemplate more expansive debate, there is not
the slightest possibility of considering the deal that has been obtained within
the time available," Ken Clarke, a senior lawmaker recently ousted from
Johnson's Conservative Party group in Parliament, told the Guardian newspaper.
The showdown comes just nine days before Britain's scheduled departure date.
Johnson's government had sought a "straight up-and-down vote" Monday on the
agreement he struck last week with the 27 other EU nations laying out the terms
of Britain's exit.
But the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, refused to allow it
because lawmakers voted to delay approving the Brexit deal on Saturday, and
parliamentary rules bar the same measure from being considered a second time
during a session of Parliament unless something has changed.
Bercow's ruling plunged the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly
familiar territory: acrimonious uncertainty.
Johnson's only hope of securing Britain's Oct. 31 departure, as he has long
promised, is to pass the Brexit-implementing bill through Britain's fractious
Parliament before then.
Johnson's Conservatives hold just 288 of the 650 House of Common seats, so
he will need support form opposition and independent lawmakers to pass the bill.
Opposition lawmakers plan to seek amendments that could substantially alter
the bill, for example by adding a requirement that the Brexit deal be put to
voters in a new referendum. The government says such an amendment would wreck
its legislation and it will withdraw the bill if the opposition plan succeeds.
With the Brexit deadline looming and British politicians still squabbling
over the country's departure terms, Johnson has been forced to ask the EU for a
three-month delay to Britain's departure date.
He did that, grudgingly, to comply with a law passed by Parliament ordering
the government to postpone Brexit rather than risk the economic damage that
could come from a no-deal exit.
European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday that EU leaders "will
decide in coming days" whether to grant Britain another extension to the
deadline for leaving the bloc, but said their decision depends on developments
Tusk said Tuesday that the decision on prolonging Brexit for three months
after Oct. 31. "will very much depend on what the British parliament decides or