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May wins Brexit clash by offering concessions

The Associated Press LONDON (AP) — The British government was rocked by a resignation and faced anger in Parliament over its Brexit plans Tuesday, but staved off defeat by offering concessions to lawmakers who want to soften the terms of the Britain’s exit from the European Union.

By a vote of 324 to 298, the House of Commons rejected a move to give lawmakers power to send the government back to the negotiating table if they don’t like the terms of the Brexit deal struck with the EU.

The result left Prime Minister Theresa May to fight another day as she tries to take Britain out of the bloc while retaining support from pro-EU and pro-Brexit wings of her Conservative Party.

But it came at a cost — a government promise to strengthen Parliament’s voice, potentially at the expense of its own power to set the terms of any final divorce deal with the EU.

The vote came on the first of two days of high-stakes debate and votes in the House of Commons on the government’s flagship Brexit bill.

The European Union Withdrawal Bill, a complex piece of legislation intended to disentangle Britain from four decades of EU rules and regulations, has had a rocky ride through Parliament. The upper chamber, the House of Lords, inserted amendments in 15 areas to soften the departure.

The government says the changes would weaken Britain’s negotiating position and is seeking to reverse them in the Commons.

Brexit Secretary David Davis urged lawmakers to “respect the result of the referendum” that approved the withdrawal. He said giving Parliament power to direct the government’s hand in talks would be “an unconstitutional shift which risks undermining our negotiations with the European Union.”

“It’s not practical, it’s not desirable and it’s not appropriate,” Davis said.

The government won the first set of votes Tuesday, but looked set to face defeat on the issue of whether Parliament should have a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal. Several pro-EU Conservative lawmakers said they would join the opposition in voting against the government.

The pro-EU faction got a boost when junior justice minister Phillip Lee resigned Tuesday, saying he could no longer support the government’s “irresponsible” plans for Brexit.

In a concession, the government promised that lawmakers would have a say on what to do next if there is no agreement with the EU, or if Parliament rejects the deal offered.

The change reduces the likelihood that Britain could leave the EU without a deal if it does not like the divorce terms. Pro-Brexit members of the government want to be able to play the “no deal” card, but the House of Commons, where pro-EU voices are stronger, would almost certainly reject the idea.Speech

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