U.K. Conservative Rebels Hold Their Fire on May's Brexit Bill

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May got her flagship Brexit Bill through its second day of scrutiny unscathed, with pro-European members of her Conservative Party holding back from rebelling, while warning that they were preparing to vote her down.

The European Union Withdrawal Bill passed the second of its eight-day committee stage, in which the House of Commons will go through it line by line, unamended. The opposition Labour Party had tabled changes that would have made it harder for ministers to change employment rights, environmental protection and other EU-derived regulations after the U.K. has left the EU.

But the tightest of the votes saw the government win with a majority of just 12, a reminder that only seven more Tories needed to rebel for the government to lose. The most difficult issues have been held back for future votes.

On one of those, May’s proposal to write the date the U.K. leaves the EU into the bill, 15 Conservatives wrote to Thursday’s Telegraph pledging to vote it down when they get the chance. They insisted this wasn’t an effort to frustrate Brexit.

“We do not seek to delay or thwart Britain’s exit from the EU however much we may regret it,” they wrote. “Putting a date in law is too rigid. As negotiations reach their close, the government may need a small amount of additional time to conclude, for example, the best transitional deal.”
May has already hinted at concessions, saying she’ll “listen carefully” to those with criticisms.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.