British Prime Minister Theresa May Concedes Need For Brexit Commons Debate

Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May gives her speech on the final day of the annual Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham, England, October 5. Toby Melville/REUTERS

Theresa May has bowed to pressure and committed to holding a parliamentary debate on Brexit before triggering the Article 50 EU exit mechanism.

But the British prime minister has stopped short of promising MPs a vote on the issue, and Wednesday faces further pressure from the opposition Labour party in an initial debate.

The governing Conservative Party is split over the terms Britain should seek to obtain in its exit negotiations, and Wednesday Labour will seek to exploit this with a parliamentary motion calling for a "full and transparent debate" allowing the Commons to "properly scrutinize" the government's position before it triggers Article 50.

Tuesday night May tabled an amendment conceding the need for scrutiny and a debate, but adding that it should "not undermine the negotiating position of the government." However, her spokesperson said Wednesday morning there would be no vote on the issue, Reuters reported.

The Labour Party nonetheless hailed the concession as "a real victory." Keir Starmer, Labour's shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU said: "This is a real victory for Parliament and will help ensure there is proper democratic grip of the Brexit process."

"There is no more important issue facing Britain than the terms of our departure from the EU. But we are now four months on from the referendum and the government have still not told the British people or Parliament what type of deal they want to negotiate," he added.

Labour has also published 170 questions on Europe it believes the government must answer, meaning there is one for each day before the end of March deadline for triggering Article 50.

They include detailed questions on the government's commitment or otherwise to remaining in the single market and ending freedom of movement.

Starmer and Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry urged Brexit Secretary David Davis to give detail on his position. "This would not be for the purpose of blocking the Brexit process, but simply to ensure that process will lead to the best possible outcome for Britain, and that the government's proposed plan will deliver that outcome," they said in a statement.

The government has consistently maintained that it is unhelpful to give a "running commentary" on its negotiating strategy, in order not to give negotiating partners in Brussels and across the continent any advantage.

British Prime Minister Theresa May Concedes Need For Brexit Commons Debate | World