October 18, 2017 / 11:12 AM / 2 years ago

May might leave next stage of Brexit bill until next month

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May has not yet set a date for the next stage in the passage of legislation to sever ties with the European Union, her spokesman said on Wednesday after the BBC reported it would not be until November, later than many had expected.

Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier hold a joint news conference after the latest round of talks in Brussels, Belgium October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The EU withdrawal bill, which seeks largely to ‘copy and paste’ EU law into British legislation to ensure Britain has functioning laws and the same regulatory framework as the bloc at the moment of Brexit, is the next major hurdle for May.

Weakened by a June election when she lost her governing Conservatives’ majority and an ill-fated party conference that failed to reset her agenda, May wants to steer the bill through both houses of parliament with as little difficulty as possible.

But lawmakers have already proposed several amendments to the bill, including some to hand parliament a vote at the end of the negotiating process with the EU and others to reduce the amount of power the government gives itself to amend laws.

Asked whether the government was planning to introduce the legislation into the so-called committee phase of its lengthy passage towards the statute book in November, her spokesman told reporters: “We haven’t yet confirmed a date for the bill at the committee stage.”

“But the leader of the house will set out (next week’s business) tomorrow,” he added, referring to a weekly procedure when the government sets out its agenda, which may, or may not, include the EU withdrawal bill.

Earlier, the BBC cited sources as saying it would not be introduced until after a parliamentary recess ends on Nov. 13.

Sources in both the Conservative and opposition Labour parties expect the government to offer some concessions to avoid a defeat, amending powers which allow ministers to rewrite some laws without consulting parliament.

Several Conservative lawmakers said they would not vote on any amendment that had been backed by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But the sheer number of amendments could slow the progress of a bill which the government says is essential to ease Britain’s departure from the EU in March 2019 and give certainty to business.

Reporting By Elizabeth Piper and Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison

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