House of Commons passes Government’s Brexit Bill unamended

Brexit Secretary David Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis
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Theresa May is on course to achieve her goal of triggering Article 50 within a matter of weeks after MPs voted through the Government’s Brexit Bill without amendments.

Tonight’s historic vote saw MPs back the legislation by 494 to 122, with the two-clause Bill remaining unaltered despite the concerted efforts of most opposition parties.

The result will be seen as a major victory for the Prime Minister, who began the week facing threats of a backbench rebellion by up to 30 pro-Remain MPs.

But with 52 Labour MPs defying the party whip to oppose the Bill, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has once again been thrown into doubt.

The final day of debate in the Commons saw MPs vote on more than a dozen amendments, as pro-EU MPs sought to reign in the Government’s pursuit of a Hard Brexit. Among the key motions was a call for guarantees on the rights of EU citizens, which was expected to see one of the biggest rebellions by Tory MPs.

In the run up to the vote, MPs from across the chamber pressed ministers to “come clean” about their plans for post-Brexit immigration. Shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield urged the Government to set out its “red lines”, as he argued migration levels should not be prioritised above economic stability.

Prime Minister Theresa May is promising a lot  but will she deliver?

Prime Minister Theresa May is promising a lot  but will she deliver?

In the end just three Tory MPs backed the amendment, including former Chancellor Ken Clarke and Treasury select committee chairman Andrew Tyrie.

This is in contrast with the 52 Labour MPs who defied Jeremy Corbyn’s orders to vote against the Bill in its entirety.

Others, including the Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith, abstained from the vote.

Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis dealt his leader a last-minute blow as he became the latest MP to resign from the Shadow Cabinet to oppose the Bill.

MPs in the House of Commons as proposals to give Theresa May the power to start formal Brexit talks clear the Commons following overwhelming support. Photo by PA.

MPs in the House of Commons as proposals to give Theresa May the power to start formal Brexit talks clear the Commons following overwhelming support. Photo by PA.

Coming ahead of two crucial by-elections in Copeland and Stoke, this only increases the pressure on the Labour leader to secure a win in order to protect his position.

Learning of last night’s result, the Brexit Secretary David Davis said Parliament had witnessed “a historic vote”. He added it was now up to Government to “[get] on with negotiating our exit from the EU”.

“It has been a serious debate, a healthy debate, with contributions from MPs representing all parts of the UK, and I respect the strong views on all sides,,” he said.

“It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the Referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country.”

However, Lib Dem MP Nick Clegg, whose party’s amendment calling for a second referendum was rejected, said the Government had been given a “blank cheque... to pursue a hard and destructive Brexit”.

“Ministers must now be properly held to account for the course they have charted and the end result must be a more meaningful role for Parliament than a false choice between a bad deal and no deal at all,” he said.

The Bill will now proceed to the Lords, with a first reading expected before the end of February.

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