Breaking Whispers: Article 50 Bill passed for final commons reading

Within the last hour MP’s have voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the governments European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill to the final stage of debate in the House of Commons.

The final stage, comprising a third reading of the bill was approved by a commons vote of 494 votes for to 122 votes against- a majority of  372.

What happens at a third reading?

  • Debate on the Bill is usually short, and limited to what is actually in the Bill, rather than, as at second reading, what might have been included.
  • Amendments (proposals for change) cannot be made to a Bill at third reading in the Commons.
  • At the end of the debate, the House decides (votes on) whether to approve the third reading of the Bill.

After that if the bill is approved, it passes to the House of Lords for its first reading and debate. Once the bill passes in the House of Lords it moves forward for Royal Assent and will eventually become law.

Why is this significant?

The passage of the bill into the third stage of reading stops opposition parties from tabling amendments which could derail the governments Brexit agenda.

Many amendments to the bill have been tabled as part of the second reading and have been successfully defeated in subsequent parliamentary votes.

Its a crucial victory in the governments timetable of a 31st March triggering of Article 50 and the commencement of the UK leaving the EU.

Commons Reaction

david-davis-boris-johnson-e1476175519793David Davis, Secretary of State for Brexit released the following statement after the vote:

“We’ve seen a historic vote tonight – a big majority for getting on with negotiating our exit from the EU and a strong, new partnership with its member states.

It has been a serious debate, a healthy debate, with contributions from MP’s representing all parts of the UK, and I respect the strong views on all sides.

The decision on EU membership has been made by the people we serve. It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the Referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country.”

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage immediately took to Twitter to express his delight at the positive vote:

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Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who chaired the Vote Leave campaign said: “This bill has passed with significant majorities unamended which is a clear signal to the House of Lords that they should do the same.”

The vote was not without some controversy however, as Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis resigned his post in order to defy the Labour parties three line whip and vote against passing the bill.

Newly elected Labour MPs

Mr Lewis, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement via the party saying: “When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be ‘Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich’. I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.”

4c71bc1669a2e0dbf91fe4f69ebeef74Mr Corbyn said he understood the difficult position of some of his MP’s but said they had been ordered to back the Article 50 because the party would not “block Brexit”.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who was widely derided after she missed last week’s initial vote on the bill due to a migraine, backed it this time, saying: “I’m a loyal member of the shadow cabinet and I’m loyal to Jeremy Corbyn.”

Breaking Whispers-Government gives MP’s vote on final Brexit bill before it is signed

The government have today agreed to give MP’s a vote on any final Brexit deal before it is signed.

Speaking in Parliament earlier today, Brexit Minister David Jones confirmed that the government’s vote will cover withdrawal from the EU, and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

He confirmed that both Houses of Parliament will get a vote on the final deal before the deal is concluded and that parliament will vote on the deal before the European parliament does.

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David Jones MP

Mr Jones said: “First of all we intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union. Furthermore, I can confirm that the government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded, and we expect and intend that this happen before the European parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.”

Following todays concession by the government members of Parliament have this evening voted against including a labour proposed amendment to the Brexit bill that would allow a parliamentary vote on any potential Brexit deal negotiated by the Government.

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Chris Leslie MP

The vote follows a motion by the Labour MP Chris Leslie in the House of Commons earlier today.

The amendment, known as NC110 comprised the following:

“Future relationship with the European Union

(1) Following the exercise of the power in section 1, any new Treaty or relationship with the European Union must not be concluded unless the proposed terms have been subject to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.

(2) In the case of any new Treaty or relationship with the European Union, the proposed terms must be approved by resolution of each House of Parliament before they are agreed with the European Commission, with a view to their approval by the European Parliament or the European Council.”

A parliamentary vote on adopting the motion into the bill was narrowly defeated with 326 votes against to 293 for adopting the motion, a majority of 33.

Several prominent Conservative MP’s who had voted remain voted with Labour in favour of the amendment, including Kenneth Clarke, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen.

A secondary motion demanding a Brexit reset button in the case of an unfavourable deal which was proposed by the SNP was also defeated but by a much larger majority of 288.

The government faces another vote tomorrow on the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, but tonight’s vote was seen as an opportunity for the opposition to derail the governments Brexit plans.

However since the vote was defeated Theresa May is on course for achieving her aim of getting the article 50 bill through the Commons without it being amended.

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View from the Green Seats- Speaker: Trump should not be allowed to speak in Parliament

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons has today said that Donald Trump should not be allowed to address Parliament, in comments made earlier today in Parliament.

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Bercow said speaking before Parliament was “Not an automatic right, but an earned honour”

Speaking in parliament, he said “We value our relationship with the US. If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond the pay grade of the Speaker. However, as far as this place is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are important considerations in the House of Commons.”

The remarks were made after a point of order raised by the Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who had earlier in the day organised an early day motion calling on the speaker to not give his permission to the government, which would allow Mr Trump to speak in Westminster.

The motion was supported by 163 MP’s.

Mr Bercow who’s role is non-political, is one of the three Parliamentary “Key Holders” said that he could not block a state visit by President Trump to the UK but would use the keyholder position to stop the American president from speaking to both houses.

“In relation to Westminster Hall, there are three key-holders … the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the lord great chamberlain, and ordinarily we are able to work by consensus and the hall would be used for a purpose such as an address, by agreement of the three key-holders.”

Qualifying his remarks he went on to add ” Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.”

While the Speakers intervention was welcomed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the government have called Mr Bercow’s comments “hugely political and out of line”.

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Stephen Doughty MP

Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who’s initial motion drew the speakers remarks praised Mr Bercow, saying  “I am delighted that the Speaker has listened to members from across the house regarding our deep concerns that Donald Trump not be honoured with an address in Westminster Hall or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, after his comments and actions on women, torture, refugees and the judiciary.

“Our parliament stands for liberty, equality and independent scrutiny of government. It is vital we stand up for those principles not only here but across the world. Mr Speaker has made that crystal clear today.”

 

Brexit White Paper: Government sets out life after EU

David Davis the Secretary of State for Brexit has today unveiled a government white paper on Brexit.

The paper outlines the governments 12 principles required for a successful exit from the European Union.

The move comes just twenty-four hours after the Government’s successful vote to adopt the European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill.

Mr Davis said that the UK’s  “best days are still to come”, outside the EU.

Key points from the white paper include:

  • Trade: The government has reasserted its position that the UK UK will withdraw from the single market, with the eventual aim of seeking a new customs arrangement and a free trade agreement with the EU.
  • Immigration: A new system to control EU migration into the UK will be introduced, and could be phased in to give businesses vital time to prepare for the new rules.
  • British citizens living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK: The paper confirms that the government wishes to secure an agreement with the EU to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK and those Britons living in Europe.
  • Sovereignty: Under the proposed plan, Britain will exit from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice but seek to set up its own legal framework to cover things like trade disputes and employment legislation.
  • Border: The government are aiming for “as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
  • Devolution: As more powers come back to the UK from the EU in the negotiating process, the government have confirmed that it will look to give more powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a move that it hopes will placate the predominantly remainer nations.
  • Security:  The document confirms that the UK will seek to continue working with the EU “to preserve UK and European security and to fight terrorism and uphold justice across Europe”. This will include remaining in Interpol, the European Arrest Warrant and cross border information sharing initiatives.

The white paper says the government aims to deliver “a smooth, mutually beneficial exit” but says this will require “a coherent and coordinated approach on both sides”.

The paper also reasserts the governments commitment that Article 50 will be triggered no later than the end of March.

Labour have criticised the white paper, saying that it “means nothing” and argued that it had been produced too late for meaningful scrutiny.

The criticism of the timing of the paper was echoed by leading Scottish National Party MP Steven Gethins who took to twitter to voice his disapproval.

The white paper will now pass to the committee stage of becoming a law, which allows for amendments to be made before it passes to the House of Lords for an upper chamber vote.

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“Taking control of our own laws”: David Davis, speaking earlier today in Parliament

Breaking Whispers-MP’s back Governments Article 50 bill

MP’s have voted overwhelmingly to back the governments European Union (Notification of withdrawal) bill in a parliamentary vote today.

The final count was 498 votes in favour with 114 votes against conferring a majority of 384.

The bill will now pass to the next stage in the political process, clearing the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to publish a government white paper on Brexit tomorrow.

Tonight’s vote followed weeks of speculation that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would impose a three line whip on Labour MP’s, urging them to vote in support of the government.


What is a three line whip?

In the UK a three-line whip is an instruction given to Members of Parliament by the leaders of their party telling them they must vote in the way that the party wants them to on a particular subject. Or more roughly translated, vote as we all vote or you’re out.


Forty-Seven member of the Labour party defied their leaders wishes and voted against the government, along with members of the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Labour Shadow Cabinet members Rachael Maskell who served as Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary and Dawn Butler who served as Shadow Equalities Minister resigned their front bench posts in order to vote against the government.

Prominent europhile and former Conservative chancellor Kenneth Clarke voted against the government after yesterday likening the Prime Ministers Brexit plans to Alice In Wonderland: “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we’ve never been able to achieve.”

Today’s vote concludes two days of parliamentary debate on the Brexit bill.

The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

The prime minister has set a deadline of 31 March for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting official talks with the EU started and this is the first of many steps to come in achieving this goal.

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View from the Green Seats- Article 50 debate begins in Parliament

Members of Parliament in the House of Commons have today begun the first of two days of Parliamentary debate on the Notification of Withdrawal from the European Union bill, or as its more commonly known: The Brexit Bill.

Debates will take place today and tomorrow, with a vote on whether to send the legislation to the next stage tomorrow evening.

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The Brexit Bill

Once the legislation passes this stage, Prime Minister Theresa May will publish a White Paper which summarises the governments position on Brexit.

The bill will begin its committee stage in the Commons, which gives MP’s an opportunity to take another look at it and potentially revise it. They can try to change the bill by pushing through amendments to the document, although it is unlikely any will pass without the support of a high number of rebel Tory MP’s.

At the end of the committee stage, MP’s will get another chance to debate the bill, followed by a final vote.

It is highly likely that Parliament will vote in favour of adopting the bill, with it being passed to the House of Lords for a secondary debate and vote by its members. If no amendments are proposed and the vote is passed then the bill will be passed to the Queen to receive royal assent.

It is only then that the bill becomes enshrined in UK law.

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David Davis MP

Secretary of State for exiting the EU, David Davis made a short statement in Parliament in which he called upon MP’s to “honour their side of the agreement” following the referendum result and pass the bill. He said voters “will view any attempt to halt its progress dimly”.

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Sir Keir Starmer MP

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer says the House has a short and “simple bill” to discuss, “but for the Labour Party this a very difficult bill.”

“We’re a fiercely internationalist party,” he says. “We’re a pro-European party.”

Labour campaigned to remain in the EU “but we failed to persuade: we lost the referendum”.

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Sir Oliver Letwin MP

Former Cabinet Office minister Sir Oliver Letwin has said that tomorrows vote on the bill is “one of the most important that we will ever take in the House” but he will vote “because the will of the people, in the end, has been expressed”

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Meg Tillier MP

Labour MP Meg Hillier has said that she will vote against the bill saying “I cannot walk blindly through a lobby to give a trigger to a process without a shred of detail from the government”.


In other news MP’s also confirmed that they would debate a recent petition calling for the cancellation of a state visit by US President Donald Trump.

The petition, which began over the weekend has gained over 1.7 million signatures, well over the 100,000 required for a parliamentary debate.

It follows widespread condemnation of Mr Trump’s immigration policies, in which individuals from seven predominantly Muslim nations are being refused entry to the USA for a period of up to 120 days.

A similar petition, which calls for the state visit to proceed will also be debated in the Parliamentary debate after reaching over 100,000 signatures.

The debate will take place on 20th February.

The Party Line is…..Trump Unbound??

Rarely in history has a US president incurred the wrath of his or her citizens and especially not in his second week in office, but then the USA has never known a President like Donald John Trump.

Calls for the country to unite behind its new president have been drowned out by songs of protest and reaction to President Trump’s increasingly extreme policy announcements.

First it was the Wall.

One of his key election pledges, Donald Trump used his first day in office to sign an executive order to allow for the construction of a wall along the US- Mexican border at an estimated cost of over 12 billion US dollars.  But it’s alright he said, the Mexicans will pay for it!

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Trump’s wall: Bigger than the Great Wall of China?

Cue Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto denouncing the move and cancelling a proposed visit to the US. Looks like the Mexicans won’t be paying for it after all.

Next it was Obamacare.

The defining domestic legacy of the Obama administration, Obamacare or to use its proper name the affordable care act is designed to improve access to health insurance for US citizens.

Without the benefits of a national health service like we have in the UK, every citizen requires health insurance to pay for everything from routine medical procedures to complex operations.

Despite criticism in some quarters, mainly from the Republican party, who disagreed with its slightly socialist overtones, President Obama managed to get this important piece of legislation through a Republican dominated congress.

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Obamacare: Illustrated

Mr Trump’s second act as President was to sign an executive order repealing Obamacare, despite having no clear replacement policy and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance.

A visit from UK Prime Minister Theresa May followed, with some very public hand holding and a lot of talking between the two leaders. Mr Trump seemed more controlled, less prone to an outburst and more likely to be willing to consider his options rather than carrying on regardless.

I felt a certain sense of optimism, like the feeling you get when you wake up and you think things are going to be alright.

But at 4:47pm that bubble burst with the signing of an executive order allowing for the following:

  1. Suspension of the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days
  2. Indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program
  3. Banning entry to the USA of people from  seven majority Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a period of 90 days.
  4. Banning of Dual-nationals from those seven countries from entering the country for a period of 90 days.

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Cue chaos at airports across the US as millions attempting to enter the country were turned away, with US border officials struggling to cope with the new regulations.

Cue widespread condemnation from the international community.

Cue a weekend protests in the streets and throughout American society.

Cue a seemingly ceaseless number of stories of hardworking and loyal Americans being turned away from their native land for simply being born somewhere else.

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Did I miss anything out?

So here we are, the ban is almost 3 days old and people are still struggling to come to terms with it. Seeing things from an outside perspective gives you a unique understanding of the problem and for me the problem is simple: Logic.

Donald Trump is a man who has no previous political experience, but has considerable business experience as typified by his status as one of Americas leading businessmen.

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Brand Trump- In Numbers

Business people follow logical patterns of thought, if a person isn’t doing their job they get fired, if the business doesn’t make a profit they fire the CEO, if that doesn’t work they spend money to try to get out of the hole.

Donald Trump is applying business logic to international politics: High number of illegal migrants from mexico harming American business? Simple, build a wall. Obamacare costs too much? Simple, get rid of it. Europe has terrorism primarily undertaken by Islamic extremists? Simple, stop Muslims from coming to the US, no problem.

International Politics is rarely that simple. I wish it were.

Donald Trump is a man who has been given the keys to the car without first learning the responsibilities entailed in driving it. Most of the senior politicians in the world have considerable experience in politics, having come up through the ranks of their respective political parties and serving on various committees and bodies.

With experience comes the tempering of the judgement that got them elected, forcing them to compromise or die.

Mr Trump has had none of this experience having won the election straight to the top job in the US government. There has been no tempering, no compromise.

But he is not entirely to blame for this, the problem is that he is bypassing the US senate and signing executive orders without consulting them. He doesn’t need them.

The US political system is set up in such a way that the President (or the executive branch) can issue executive orders to help officers and agencies of the executive branch (the various departments: State etc) manage operations within the federal government itself.

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The Three Branches of the US Government

These orders are independent of the Legislative branch (Congress) and the Judiciary branch (The US courts) and do not require their assent or consultation to be put into law.

Our system here in the UK has a similar equivalent, Prerogative powers which can be used without the assent of Parliament. These were recently called into use by the government to try to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary assent, but were vetoed by the supreme court after a legal case.

There is no such check on Mr Trump, nothing to stop him signing whatever he deems to be correct into an executive order and making it law.

The Republican party, buoyed by its resounding dominance of the senate has been completely sidelined by the Presidents position. They cannot check his power because they have no constitutional mechanism to do so, save for impeachment.

But he’s not doing anything wrong and is acting completely within the bounds of his role as the head of the executive branch of the US government.

The outcry that has followed this new immigration ban must give President Trump a clear moment of pause to reconsider the office to which he has been given and the clear responsibility to his 320 million stockholders. He would be wise to calm down his more extreme policies before America yells in a collective voice “You’re Fired”.

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International Whispers- May talks up new ‘Special Relationship’ in US visit

Prime Minister Theresa May has been keen to stress the Special Relationship that exists between Britain and the US in her first visit to America since Donald Trump became President.

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Mrs May arriving in the U.S

Mrs May said that Britain and the US “have a joint responsibility to lead” but will not do so in the same way as previous administrations have done.

The Prime Minister will lay a wreath at the grave of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery before having a face to face meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office later today.

Both countries are at new phases in their history, with Britain soon to be exiting the EU and the US having a new president after eight years of the Obama administration. It is a tense time for both countries, with both having to heal after very polarising political campaigns (Brexit and the US Presidential election).

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May received a standing ovation from Republicans in Philadelphia

The Prime Minister argued that a new “special relationship” would be nothing like the previous one between Tony Blair and George W Bush, which saw high profile invasions Iraq and Afghanistan. “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are decisively over.”

But as she distanced herself from one previous special relationship, she was keen to stress the parallels between today and the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher particularly when dealing with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin saying “We should build the relationships, systems and processes that make cooperation more likely than conflict – and give assurance to Russia’s neighbouring states that their security is not in question. We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence.”

May said that she was determined to deepen links between the two countries, adding “It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.”

When asked how the temperaments of brash billionaire and a vicars daughter would interact ahead of her meeting this afternoon, the Prime Minister said “Haven’t you ever noticed, sometimes opposites attract?”

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The New Odd Couple?

International Whispers- Mexican President cancels trip to U.S over Trump’s wall claims

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has cancelled a planned visit to the U.S after American President Donald Trump signed an executive order to start construction of a wall along the length of the US border with Mexico.

The wall which was a key election promise in now President Trump’s election campaign has caused much consternation in the international community, especially after Mr Trump affirmed his desire to make Mexico pay for all or part of its construction.

In a video address on Wednesday night Peña Nieto told Mexico “I have said time and time again, Mexico will not pay for any wall.” amidst pressure from his own government to cancel the meeting with President Trump.

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Mexican President Nieto came under significant government pressure 

President Nieto later confirmed on Twitter that he had cancelled Thursday’s meeting with President Trump adding that “Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the US to achieve agreements which benefit both nations”

Mr Trump who was making a speech to republican politicians in Philadelphia, claimed that the cancellation was mutual saying “The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting next week” but later reiterating his tough negotiating position:

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Trump has signed an executive order to start construction of a wall along the US -Mexico border

“Unless Mexico is going to treat us fairly and with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, we have to go a different route.”

Many Mexicans have welcomed President Peña Nieto’s decision to not visit the US, particularly after the perceived inaction by Mexico that followed Mr Trump’s visit last August.

With falling popularity ratings in Mexico, the President’s action will undoubtedly win him many fans, both domestically and in the wider international community.

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The new “Special Relationship”?

President Trump is due to meet with UK Prime Minister Theresa May tomorrow to discuss the “Special” relationship and potential trade deals with the UK post Brexit.

The Prime Minister said that Mr Trump had confirmed in conversations that “There is a clear commitment on both sides not just to maintain the special relationship, but to build on the special relationship.”

With President Trump so publicly snubbed, the Prime Minister might be keen to placate the President, but with growing questions on his views on torture and women it may be a tough conversation.

Responding to Labour’s calls to adopt a bullish position in dealing with Mr Trump she said “We have a very clear view: we condemn the use of torture, and my view on that won’t change, whether I’m talking to you, or talking to President Trump.”

But with post Brexit trade deals forming a vital part of this countries long term economic future, it may be a case of losing the battle to win the war.

 

Theresa May: Government to publish white paper on Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May has today confirmed that the government will set out its Brexit plans in a formal government policy document- known as a white paper.

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Mrs May said she recognised an “appetite” for a white paper on her “bold” negotiations on exiting the EU

The move comes after pressure from the Labour party for greater clarity on the governments Brexit plans, initially set out in the Prime Ministers speech a week ago and after speculation that many in her own party (including some ex-ministers) wanted a white paper.

“It was a bit of a surprise but I’m incredibly delighted,” said Ben Howlett, the Conservative MP for Bath who had been calling for a white paper. “We haven’t discussed what amendments might or might not be put in. We’d been focusing our attention on getting a white paper.”

Speaking at Prime Ministers questions earlier today Mrs May said “I recognise that there is an appetite in this House to see that plan set out in a White Paper. I can confirm to the House that our plan will be set out in a White Paper published in this House.”

What is a White Paper?

white-paper-2Simply put, a white paper is a document or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s position on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. In this case the government is setting out it’s Brexit position in a way that is clear, concise and can be debated openly in Parliament.

Mrs May was quick to confirm that the white paper would be a completely separate issue to the article 50 debate, an action which will give the government much needed space to focus its efforts on the upcoming parliamentary debate on triggering article 50.

The Prime Minister said that the white paper would be “a bold vision for Britain for the future”.

Labour MP’s have called upon the government to have the white paper document ready in time for the parliamentary debates on the triggering of Article 50, scheduled in Parliament over the next few weeks in the run up to March 31st.

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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at Prime Ministers Questions earlier today

A Labour spokesman said: “We now want to see the timing and it is clear the white paper needs to come to parliament in time for the debate … MPs have a right to be able to see what the government’s plan of action is. The speech is not adequate. It set out a wish-list of options.

“As we’ve said many times, Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the EU and therefore will not frustrate the will of the British people. But respecting the will of the British people is very different from respecting the will of the British government. We need to see the plan and make sure the process is held to account in parliament at every stage.”