MPs aim to force government to show its Brexit negotiating hand

Posted in Google Brexit News
at 2016.10.23
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MPs aim to force government to show its Brexit negotiating hand

MPs will force the government to publicly set out its Brexit negotiating position if it does not volunteer the information, according to the head of a new parliamentary committee that will supervise the process of leaving the EU.

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who was elected as chairman of the House of Commons Brexit committee this week, said he and fellow committee members “will want to get answers from ministers because we need to manage the uncertainty” for business and other affected groups, and parliament “would want to express a view”. 

However, the committee would not seek to control the timing of when Britain triggers Article 50, the official legal notification to other EU member states, Mr Benn said.

“It is right and proper that parliament should have a view about what our negotiating objectives will be,” he told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show. “It is about the negotiating objectives, not about Article 50.”

Ministers have been resisting calls to give parliament a role in approving and overseeing the Brexit process.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling, one of the most senior members of David Cameron’s government to back the Leave campaign during the referendum, rejected Mr Benn’s call for ministers to set out their negotiating position.

“We cannot give a running commentary,” he told the BBC. “We will inform parliament as much as we can but ultimately the national interest has to come first.” 

The new select committee could make that position difficult for the government to maintain. It has the power to force ministers and officials to answer questions and reveal documents. 

Mr Benn said it was essential that MPs were informed about Britain’s negotiating position because it would become known to the European Parliament and other institutions. 

He also called on Theresa May to commit to securing a transitional trading agreement with the EU “if it is not possible to negotiate withdrawal and a new trading relationship” at the same time, in order to “offer some confidence to business”. 

Earlier this month, Mrs May said Article 50 would be triggered by the end of March; that starts the two-year period for Britain to arrange its departure, meaning it is set to leave the EU by early 2019. 

Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK independence party, said on Sunday that if Mrs May has not extracted Britain from the single market and the EU’s fisheries policy by then, his party would expect a surge in support. 

He told the ITV’s Peston on Sunday that Mrs May should call an early general election to strengthen her negotiating position and seek explicit approval from the electorate for a so-called “hard Brexit”.

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Published at Sun, 23 Oct 2016 10:52:30 +0000

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