May's Flagship Brexit Bill On Course to Pass First Hurdle

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May’s flagship piece of Brexit legislation was due to pass its first parliamentary hurdle Monday, with lawmakers in her own Conservative Party warning she’ll have to make concessions to get the bill the rest of the way.

The European Union repeal bill allows for the transfer of thousands of EU rules into British law. Because these rules often refer to European institutions, ministers say they need to be able to rewrite these laws as they go. But critics of Brexit say this means giving them unprecedented powers without scrutiny, branding the measures “Henry VIII clauses” in reference to the 16th century Tudor monarch.

The vote Monday was on the second reading of the bill, when lawmakers are asked to vote on the general principle, rather details. Ahead of the ballot, May’s spokesman James Slack told reporters that the government had “been clear that we are going to listen to the concerns.” Several Conservatives said that on this basis they would back the bill at this point.

“I support the government tonight, but I do so only in the expectation that they’re going to support sensible amendments,” Sarah Wollaston told the House of Commons.

Her colleague Bob Neill said he would do the same. Several clauses in the bill, he said, “go beyond, it seems to me, that which is acceptable or necessary, and I hope the government will approach this in a sensible and constructive spirit.”

Having lost her majority in the Commons in June’s election, May is vulnerable to rebellions from her own side. Helpfully for her, several Labour lawmakers said they would be disobeying their own side’s instructions and voting with the government.

Voting was due to begin around midnight London time.