UK Lawmakers Debate Brexit Bill

UK Lawmakers Debate Brexit Bill

LONDON (AP) -- British lawmakers are beginning debate Tuesday on a bill authorizing the start of European Union exit talks, as the government races to meet a self-imposed March 31 deadline to begin the process.

The government was forced to introduce legislation after a Supreme Court ruling last week torpedoed Prime Minister Theresa May's effort to start the process of leaving the 28-nation bloc without a parliamentary vote.

Ministers hope the European Union (Notice of Withdrawal) Bill can be pushed through both houses of Parliament by early March, before the March 31 deadline.

The brief piece of legislation says that "the prime minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the EU."

Lawmakers will hold two days of debate before a Wednesday vote. If it passes, the bill will move on to committee scrutiny and then Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Tuesday that Britons had voted to leave the EU, and lawmakers were being asked "a very simple question: Do we trust the people or not?"

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says his Labour Party will respect the outcome of June's EU membership referendum, and will try to amend the bill but not block it.

But some Labour lawmakers who represent areas of the country that voted to remain in the EU say they will respect their constituents' wishes and vote against triggering the Brexit process.