June 29, 2017
LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers were set to vote Thursday on whether to approve the Conservative government’s plans for a Brexit-dominated parliamentary session, in a test of Prime Minister Theresa May’s shaky minority administration.
The vote comes at the end of debate on last week’s Queen’s Speech, which set out the government’s proposed legislation for the next two years. The slimmed-down agenda jettisoned several pledges made by the party before Britain’s June 8 election, in which voters stripped May’s Conservative party of its majority in Parliament. Several of the planned new laws relate to Britain’s exit from the European Union, due in 2019.
The election left the Conservatives with 317 of the 650 seats in Parliament, several short of a majority. It also severely undermined the authority of May, who called the early vote in a misjudged attempt to increase her grip on power ahead of Brexit negotiations with the EU.
As May struggles to short up her support, the main opposition Labour Party is seeking to disrupt her plans by putting forward amendments that would reverse Conservative policies on Brexit and spending cuts.
But the government is likely to get its way Thursday thanks to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 lawmakers have agreed to support the Conservatives on key votes. On Wednesday the government, with the help of the DUP, managed to defeat a Labour motion calling for a reversal of public spending cuts. The vote was 323 to 309 — the first of what is likely to be many close calls for May’s administration in Parliament.
The DUP deal — secured with a promise of 1 billion pounds ($1.29 billion) in new spending for Northern Ireland — has dismayed some Conservatives on account of the smaller party’s socially conservative policies on issues including abortion, which is all but outlawed in Northern Ireland.
One amendment up for a vote Thursday will test the unity of Conservative lawmakers. It calls on the government to pay for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England for abortions. Voting down the measure could be hard to stomach for some liberal Tory legislators.