Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, drinks a glass of water during a news conference at number 10 Downing Street following air strikes in Syria, in London, U.K. (Photographer: Will Oliver/Pool via Bloomberg)  

May Considers Putting Divorce Bill to Parliament: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May is facing the latest challenge to her leadership as frustration among lawmakers grows. Talks with Labour aimed at finding a consensus on leaving the EU resume, with the government testing support before putting a key bit of Brexit legislation to Parliament next week.

Key Developments:

  • Government may present the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to Parliament next week. This encapsulates the Brexit deal in law
  • Senior members of influential 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs meet amid increasing frustration with May’s leadership
  • Pro- and anti-Brexit parties present candidates for EU elections
  • U.S. President Donald Trump will visit U.K. in June

Labour Wants May Concessions to Back WAB (4:10 p.m.)

Labour is unlikely to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in Parliament (see 11.40 a.m.) unless there’s significant movement from the government to compromise on its Brexit red lines, according to two people familiar with the party’s position in talks.

With cross-party negotiations resuming this afternoon, Labour wants May to get closer to the opposition party’s demands for a customs union and alignment with environmental and workers rights before it would even consider backing such a bill, the people said.

And they made clear they don’t see any signs she’s going to change her position anytime soon.

Change UK Announces MEP Candidates (11:50 a.m.)

Change UK, the party formed after a group of Labour and Tory MPs quit their parties over Brexit in February, announced its candidate list for the European Parliamentary elections. They include Rachel Johnson, sister of arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson, and former BBC North America correspondent Gavin Esler.

All candidates “concluded the same thing, that the old political parties have let them down,’’ party leader Heidi Allen said at an event in Bristol. The party will campaign for a second referendum and for the U.K. to stay in the EU, Allen said. “This is no rebel alliance, this is the home of the Remain alliance.’’

“Our political system is a joke, it’s a worldwide joke, they’re laughing at us -- not with us but at us,’’ Esler said. “ I’ve joined the Remain alliance to stop Brexit, fix Britain and move on to reform the EU. The first move is a people’s vote, because we have to stop Brexit now.”

Withdrawal Bill Next Week? (11:40 a.m.)

The government can’t get its Brexit deal passed and talks with Labour aren’t showing any signs of progress. But it has a new strategy to try to move the Brexit process along: It’s going to try to get Parliament to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill -- the legislation that enshrines the divorce deal.

The bill, known as the WAB, needs to be passed for Brexit to happen. And once it is passed, the deal itself still needs to be ratified.

It’s not clear whether Labour would support the bill. An official speaking on condition of anonymity said the plan was to present it next week and noted there would be no point doing so if Labour was going to shoot it down. The Labour Party’s official position is that it accepts the divorce part of the deal, and just objects to the bit about the future relationship with the bloc.

With Conservative Brexiteers likely to reject a bill they see as getting the Brexit deal closer to passing, opposition votes are therefore key.

“To look at this logically, if we were in a position to have sufficient votes to pass through WAB, you’d also hope we were in a position to have sufficient votes to pass a meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal, the prime minister’s spokesman James Slack told reporters.

Talks between the government and Labour resume on Tuesday in an attempt to find a compromise that would allow Parliament to pass the whole deal, or a revised version of it.

Govt Focused on Withdrawal Agreement Bill (11:10 a.m.)

The government is focused on getting the Withdrawal Agreement Bill -- the legislation that puts the Brexit divorce deal into U.K. law -- passed by Parliament, a spokesman told reporters on Tuesday.

Talks are continuing with the opposition Labour Party on finding an agreement that would allow the deal itself to be ratified in Parliament, spokesman James Slack said, adding that compromise was needed on both sides.

Prime Minister Theresa May remains committed to Britain having an independent trade policy after Brexit, he said. That indicates she’s still not willing to compromise on a customs union.

Tories Want May to Name Departure Date: Telegraph (11 a.m.)

Graham Brady, leader of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative members of Parliament, is expected to meet Theresa May on Tuesday and tell her Tory MPs want her to name a date for her departure, the Telegraph said.

That comes before a meeting of the 1922 this evening, when MPs will debate changing party rules, the Telegraph’s Steven Swinford said on Twitter. Under the current system, May has until the end of the year before she can face another leadership challenge.


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