UK to extend Parliament to prepare for Brexit

LONDON • Britain’s Parliament will sit for two years instead of the typical one to prepare for the nation’s departure from the European Union (EU) in early 2019, indicating the government may be ready to moderate its position in order to get the legislation through.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority administration is making the rare extension as lawmakers consider which of the thousands of EU rules it will incorporate into British law — known as the Great Repeal Bill — as well as overseeing the nation’s domestic agenda, her office said in a statement. The legislation for Brexit will be confirmed this week.

May’s preparations for one of the biggest diplomatic challenges a UK leader has faced since World War II have been roiled by her failure to secure a parliamentary majority in an election she called. Her weakened leadership position has been exacerbated by criticism over her response to a London tower block fire.

Without the strong mandate she hoped for, some senior ministers have been urging May to change her negotiating stance and drop her push for a so-called hard Brexit that would include leaving the EU single market as well as the customs union. She’s also faced calls to reach out to other parties.

Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, said in the statement the government would “build the broadest possible consensus for our Brexit plans”.

“While our top priority right now is supporting the victims of the ter- rible tragedy at Grenfell tower,” said Leadsom, “we also need to look ahead by setting out a legislative programme that not only delivers a successful EU exit but also a domestic agenda which aims to tackle the social injustices in our country.”

The Queen’s Speech, in which the monarch sets out the government’s plans as the legislature meets for the first time, is now set for June 21, and will trigger two years of political wrangling as May pushes for complex legislation after her Conservative party lost its majority in this month’s election.

The government is confident it has the votes to pass the speech, according to a person familiar with the plans who sought anonymity to discuss private matters.

Under the current schedule, legislation that fails to win approval before a session ends must be reintroduced in the following year. The two-year plan would let lawmakers debate the government’s plans for Brexit “without interruption”, the statement said.

The first session of Parliament will begin two days after negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU begin in Brussels.

The process of converting thousands of EU rules into British law isn’t straightforward. Officials estimate that between 800 and 1,000 extra pieces of legislation will be required to plug what the plan called “large holes in our statute book” that will be left by Britain’s departure. In order to correct these legal flaws, ministers will get new powers to make relevant regulations. — Bloomberg