01:15 - Source: CNN
Theresa May's Brexit speech

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UK lawmakers vote Wednesday on triggering EU exit clause

Small group of lawmakers to try and block bill

London CNN  — 

The British government is determined to trigger negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union by March 31, lawmakers were told Tuesday.

Opening the debate on the parliamentary bill that will give Prime Minister Theresa May the go ahead with Brexit, David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU told parliamentarians they could not block the process.

The decision to leave the trade block is “a point of return already passed,” he said. “At the core of this Bill lies a very simple question – do we trust the people or not?”

Labour party split

Members of Parliament have been given until midnight to discuss the proposed legislation that would allow May to invoke Article 50 of the EU Treaty and start two years of negotiations to leave the 27-nation economic and political grouping.

The UK government was forced to bring legislation to Parliament after the Supreme Court ruled it could not trigger Article 50 without the permission of lawmakers. They will take a vote on the EU (Notification on Withdrawal) Bill on Wednesday, according to PA.

Britain voted in a referendum last June by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU, however in both parliamentary parties opinion is split over the wisdom of Brexit, with only the small Liberal Democrat party and the Scottish National Party united in their stance to stay in.

Corbyn: Vote with government

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn ordered Labour MPs not to attempt to delay the process by voting against the government on Article 50, although at least 22 of his MPs are expected to defy him and support “a wrecking amendment,” filed by the Scottish National Party.

The amendment would delay Article 50 on the grounds that the Government has failed to provide for consultation with devolved administrations and has not assured MPs of a meaningful vote at the end of the negotiation process, PA reported. It is highly unlikely to pass when the bill is put to a vote tomorrow evening.

“We can at least stand up to be counted,” Welsh Labour MP Owen Smith told CNN on Tuesday.

However he added that it “is a slow ship and this (voting against the bill) is just the first push on the tiller.”

Anti-Brexit Tory MPs save fire power

Many Conservative lawmakers are also against Brexit but are unlikely to support the amendment, saving their ammunition for when Brexit negotiations begin, Smith said.

One exception is veteran politician and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke, who will vote with opposition MPs in favor of the amendment, he compared the government’s vision for a post-Brexit world with the 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and you emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we were never able to achieve when part of the EU,” he said.

“Nice men like President Trump, President Erdogan are just impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access… no doubt somewhere there is a mad matter holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.”

May – who has come under fire for failing to set out a vision for Brexit – told parliament last week that the government would produce a white paper that would be scrutinized by lawmakers. She resisted such a move earlier because she said it would show the UK’s negotiating hand. Not only will the UK need to negotiate the exit from Europe, but also new trade bills with all its trading partners.

The House of Lords, the UK’s upper house will also need to approve the Article 50 legislation.