UK: House of Commons passes trade bill, paves way for Brexit


London, July 18: The first step of a trade bill establishing the legal basis for Brexit has cleared the lower house of the British parliament with a vote of 317 in favour and 286 against.
The House of Commons gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to the government plan by closely defeating an amendment by several pro-European Union (EU) Conservative and Labour lawmakers.
The UK has not agreed on future bilateral relations with the EU including a “frictionless free trade area for goods”, Efe news reported.
After Tuesday’s vote, the trade bill, which shifts to UK law the existing European trade agreements, will go to the House of Lords that will study it after the summer recess.
Conservative International Trade Minister Liam Fox argued that the legislation would provide “stability and continuity” to companies until the UK could reach its own trade deals at the end of the 21-month transition period following Brexit, which will be enacted on March 29, 2019.
Fox called the trade plan “the confident first step that the UK takes towards establishing itself as an independent trading nation for the first time in over 40 years”, which can only happen when it leaves the European bloc.
British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived a new rebellion in her government’s ranks – another crunch Brexit vote in Parliament – as she struggles to unify her divided party around her strategy for leaving the European Union.
The Conservative government defeated – by only 307 votes against to 301 in favour – an amendment introduced by its own backbench MPs to the future trade policy bill which would have kept Britain in a customs union with the EU if it failed to agree a free trade deal.
If the amendment had passed, it would have thrown May’s Brexit strategy into disarray and increased pressure on the already beleaguered leader. Government whips overcame the rebellion by a dozen Tory lawmakers – reportedly issuing last-ditch threats it would prompt a no-confidence vote in the prime minister – and scraped through by six votes.
It was bolstered by the support of four pro-Brexit opposition Labour Party MPs. (Agencies)