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British lawmakers resume debate on key Brexit law

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May gestures as she joins Sutton and Cheam MP, Paul Scully during his campaigning for the May 2018 London local elections, in south west London on January 13, 2018 / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Leon Neal

British MPs resumed discussions Tuesday on a landmark piece of legislation allowing Britain to leave the European Union, on the eve of a vote on the draft law.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is intended to transpose EU regulation into British law and will repeal the legislation enshrining Britain’s EU membership.

The bill, which also sets the date and time for Brexit on March 29, 2019, at 2300 GMT, is expected to be approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday despite trenchant opposition from pro-EU MPs.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced a setback last month when 11 of her own Conservative MPs voted with the main opposition Labour Party for an amendment to have a meaningful vote on the terms of Brexit.

Following pressure from pro-EU Conservatives, the government has also changed the bill to allow for the date and time of Brexit to be altered in case negotiations continue beyond March 29, 2019.

But the bill’s passage through the House of Lords in the coming weeks could be far harder because the upper chamber is dominated by the pro-EU opposition.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Brexit campaigner, warned that the House of Lords could face fundamental reform if it hampered Brexit.

“If the Lords in their wisdom — and a lot of them are very pro-European — decide to try and frustrate, then the Lords will, as an institution, get into difficulties,” Rees-Mogg said.

In a podcast on the website of the ConservativeHome political blog, Rees-Mogg also urged members of the House of Lords not to push for a second referendum.

“A second referendum would be very dangerous territory for the Lords because it would be seen as the characteristic European hatred of democracy, so if you vote the wrong way, you get made to vote again until you vote the right way,” he said.

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