The U.K. government, under pressure from lawmakers to reveal more about its Brexit strategy, said it wouldn’t disclose details on trade that gave away its negotiating tactics but promised to publish an unspecified plan before it kicks off the talks.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said broadly that Britain wants the best possible trade access to the European Union once it leaves the bloc while still controlling immigration. But she has otherwise maintained that her government must keep much of its strategy quiet to give it flexibility in talks.
In an attempt to force her to disclose more, the opposition Labour Party convened on Wednesday a nonbinding parliamentary debate and vote to call on her government to commit to publishing its plan before she triggers the formal process by the end of March.
After a handful of pro-EU lawmakers from Mrs. May’s Conservative Party signaled they were supportive of the Labour motion, the government said it would publish the plan-but gave little indication it would reveal much more than it already has. It also added an amendment to the Labour proposal calling on lawmakers to show they supported the results of Britain’s June vote to leave the EU and its timetable to trigger its exit.
Lawmakers approved the Labour motion and the government amendment by a substantial margin. Neither vote is binding on the government.
Some lawmakers say they worry the government will push for a so-called “hard Brexit” that would include losing access to Europe’s tariff-free single market. Opening the debate, Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit-affairs spokesman, accused the government of trying to escape parliamentary scrutiny and said it had a duty to act on behalf of the whole population, not just the 52% that voted to depart the bloc.
David Davis, Britain’s secretary of state for exiting the EU, said the government had already outlined its plans in several areas but couldn’t give too much away, particularly about future trade relations.
“We will need to find our way through a vast number of competing interests to manage our exit from the European Union so our people benefit from it,” he said. “To do this the government must have the flexibility to adjust during negotiations.”
Sticking to the government’s line, Mr. Davis said he expected Parliament would have a say on the final Brexit deal but wouldn’t be able to reverse the referendum decision.
The government has spelled out some of its plans, he said. It wants to control immigration from Europe and remove the U.K. from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, he said. Britain also planned to uphold current employee rights after leaving the EU and maintain its relationship with the EU on justice and security because of the two sides’ mutual interest, Mr. Davis added.
The debate comes as the government is fighting a case in the country’s Supreme Court that would require a parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50. The government is arguing that the referendum result means it has the power to begin that process without seeking lawmakers’ consent. That is separate from a parliamentary vote on the timetable.