British Prime Minister Theresa May signalled ahead of a House of Commons debate Wednesday (12 October) that she would let parliament scrutinise her plan for Brexit before she begins the formal process to exit the EU.
The move caused the pound to bounce back after a torrid week, amid speculation that MPs may be able to soften the government’s approach to Brexit, which currently seems on course to take Britain out of the single market.
May has still offered no reassurance that MPs will have a vote on her plan before she triggers Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which formally begins the exit process.
A spokeswoman for May said she always wanted parliament to play “an important role” in Britain’s departure from the European Union and her agreement to demands for a “full and transparent” debate in the chamber reflects that.
“We’ve always said that parliament has an important role to play, and the amendment reflects that,” her spokeswoman said.
“But we also believe this should be done in a way that respects the decision of the people of the UK when they voted to leave the EU on 23 June and does not undermine the negotiating position of the government as negotiations are entered into … after Article 50 has been triggered.”
The opposition Labour party hailed her move as a climbdown, although her office said she had always stated that parliament should have a role.
May acted amid concerns that she would lose a House of Commons debate Wednesday, initiated by Labour, calling for MPs to be allowed “properly to scrutinise” the government’s strategy. She tabled an amendment that effectively accepts the motion.
However, it specifies that any parliamentary scrutiny process must respect the vote to leave the EU and should not “undermine the negotiating position of the government”.
Labour’s shadow minister for Brexit, Keir Starmer, described the prime minister’s move as a “real victory for parliament”.
The party has also given the government 170 questions on the detail of the Brexit plan — one for every day until the end of March, the deadline May has set for triggering Article 50.
“If you are able to provide satisfactory answers to all these questions, just one per day from tomorrow until 31 March next year, it might give some confidence that the government is entering the Article 50 negotiations with a clear plan,” they wrote.