British PM will open Brexit plan to MPs

FILE: British prime minister in waiting, Theresa May, speaks outside the Houses of Parliament in London. (Dominic Lipinski, PA via AP)
FILE: British prime minister in waiting, Theresa May, speaks outside the Houses of Parliament in London. (Dominic Lipinski, PA via AP)

London - British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she would publish her Brexit plan in parliament so that MPs can scrutinise it, but insisted the government's timetable was on track.

The announcement is a concession to lawmakers angered at what they say is the lack of detail so far in May's proposals for leaving the European Union.

It also came a day after Supreme Court judges ruled against May's government and said the prime minister must win parliamentary approval before starting formal talks to exit the bloc.

The Conservative leader said MPs would be presented with a "white paper" policy document outlining her negotiating strategy, though she did not say when it would be published.

"I recognise that there is an appetite in this house to see that plan set out," she told parliament's lower House of Commons in her weekly questions session.

White papers outline proposals for future legislation and form a basis for consultation and discussion.

"I can confirm to the house that our plan will be set out in a white paper published in this house," May said.

However, the white paper was a "separate issue" from a draft law that is expected this week and which will give MPs a vote on formally beginning the Brexit process.

It was reported Wednesday that she will introduce the bill on triggering Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty -- serving notice of Britain's intention to leave - on Thursday.

Overwhelmingly voted

May's Downing Street office later said that the white paper would "be based on the speech" she gave last week, in which she announced Britain's intention to leave the EU's single market.

The British Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday was a landmark judgement and a setback for May, just before she flies to Washington to meet US President Donald Trump.

In angry exchanges in parliament with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour main opposition party, May said she would protect workers' rights in leaving the EU and was "not afraid to speak frankly" with Trump.

The legal case on leaving the EU has revived divisions within Britain - after last June's referendum saw 52% vote to exit, splitting the country and presenting a potential constitutional crisis.

May had wanted to start the two-year Brexit process - invoking Article 50 - without a vote in parliament, but she failed to overturn a High Court ruling that said lawmakers must be consulted.

As the appeal was being heard in December, May managed to win a parliamentary vote that MPs would stick to her March deadline for triggering Brexit in return for explaining her plans.

"The house has overwhelmingly voted that Article 50 should be triggered before the end of March 2017," May told MPs.

"Following the Supreme Court judgement, a bill will be provided for this house and there will be the proper debates in this chamber," and in the upper House of Lords revising chamber, she said.

Bold vision

"There is then the separate question of actually publishing the plan that I have set out: a bold vision for Britain for the future.

"I will do that in a white paper and one of our objectives is the best possible free trade arrangement with the European Union."

A series of high-profile Conservative MPs who backed Britain staying in the EU, including former finance minister Ken Clarke, had called for May to produce a white paper.

There had been concerns that rebel Conservatives could team up with opposition parties to amend the Article 50 bill to force ministers into publishing a white paper if they did not do so voluntarily.

May's Conservative government currently has a working majority of 16 in the 650-member parliament.

May flies to the United States on Thursday, before holding talks at the White House with Trump on Friday.

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