Commons passes trade bill, paves way for Brexit

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London, July 18 (IANS) The first step of a trade bill establishing the legal basis for Brexit has cleared the lower house of the British parliament with a vote of 317 in favour and 286 against.

The House of Commons gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to the government plan by closely defeating an amendment by several pro-European Union (EU) Conservative and Labour lawmakers.

The UK has not agreed on future bilateral relations with the EU including a “frictionless free trade area for goods”, Efe news reported.

After Tuesday’s vote, the trade bill, which shifts to UK law the existing European trade agreements will go to the House of Lords, which will study it after the summer recess.

Conservative International Trade Minister Liam Fox argued that the legislation will provide “stability and continuity” to companies until the UK can reach its own trade deals at the end of the 21-month transition period following Brexit, which will be enacted on March 29, 2019.

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Fox called the trade plan “the confident first step that the UK takes towards establishing itself as an independent trading nation for the first time in over 40 years”, which can only happen when it leaves the European bloc.

The government of Prime Minister Theresa May overcame a new rebellion in her government’s ranks by defeating, by only 307 votes against to 301 in favour, a largely Conservative amendment to remain in the customs union, which would have destabilized its negotiating leverage with Brussels.

However, the Conservative leader’s weakness in Parliament came to the fore when another Conservative amendment was passed by 305 votes to 201, which forced her to maintain as an important goal the UK’s continued adherence to the European regulatory network for medicines.

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The trade bill gives the government powers to adapt national legislation to comply with existing accords, establish new structures to fight any possible disputes following Brexit, and transpose into British law some 40 EU trade agreements, which the UK wishes to maintain until it can sign new treaties.

While the House of Commons debates these texts, the European Commission is analyzing the plan for future trade and customs relations it received from the UK government, the survival of which depends largely on the response from Brussels.

–IANS

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