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British lawmakers back key Brexit legislation

LONDON: British lawmakers voted in favour of the government's legislative blueprint for Brexit on Wednesday, marking a victory for Prime Minister Theresa May over political opponents who want a softer approach to leaving the European Union.

But the legislation will now face scrutiny from parliament's largely pro-EU upper house, where Mrs May's party does not have a majority.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was approved by a 324 to 295 vote in the lower house - a milestone on the road towards cementing the legal foundations of Britain's departure from the bloc.

ESSENTIAL

"This bill is essential for preparing the country for the historic milestone of withdrawing from the European Union," Brexit minister David Davis told parliament before the vote.

The bill has become the focal point for months of divisive debate about what type of EU divorce Britain should seek, testing Mrs May's ability to deliver on her exit strategy without a parliamentary majority.

But despite one embarrassing parliamentary defeat, several government concessions and rebellion from within her own party, Mrs May's Conservative lawmakers overcame opposition from the Labour Party and others.

The upper house, the House of Lords, will now begin months of scrutiny of the bill before it can become law.

Any changes made by the lords will require approval from the lower house, and the whole process could take until May to complete.

The House of Lords contains a diverse, mix of political appointees, experts and members who inherited their positions. Many lords are opposed to Brexit.

Some are expected to try to soften the Brexit approach, but barring a major shake-up from one of the country's two largest political parties, Britain remains on course to leave the bloc in March next year. - REUTERS

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