MPs vote to allow May to start formal Brexit talks
Proposals to allow Theresa May to start formal Brexit talks have passed their first Commons test following overwhelming support from MPs.
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was given a second reading last night by 498 votes to 114 – a majority of 384.
The legislation allows the Prime Minister to decide when to trigger Article 50 and therefore begin the two-year process of negotiation on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
A total of 47 Labour MPs defied orders from leader Jeremy Corbyn by voting against the Bill.
Mr Corbyn imposed a three-line whip on his MPs, which required them to support it.
An SNP-led wrecking amendment which attempted to stop the Bill from progressing was earlier defeated by 336 votes to 100, a majority of 236.
There were 33 Labour MPs who supported the SNP proposal, with six voting against, and 44 who opposed a motion outlining the future process for the Bill – which undergoes further scrutiny over three days from next Monday.
The votes came after more than 17 hours of debate.
Ministers were forced to bring forward the proposed legislation after the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament’s approval is needed before the Brexit withdrawal process can begin.
The Government wants this to start before the end of March.
Former Chancellor George Osborne used the second day of debate to warn that blocking Brexit risks “putting Parliament against people” and provoking a “deep constitutional crisis” in Britain.
He added the Government has chosen “not to make the economy the priority in this negotiation, they have prioritised immigration control”.
Mr Osborne also claimed negotiations will be a “trade off, as all divorces are, between access and money” as the UK seeks to reduce its financial commitments to the bloc, adding they could be “rather bitter” as he committed himself to the battle ahead.
His remarks came after Labour former leader Ed Miliband warned Mrs May against feeling an inevitable consequence of leaving the EU is being “driven into the arms” of US president Donald Trump.
Mr Miliband said: “I can go along with the Prime Minister that Brexit means Brexit but I cannot go along with the idea that Brexit means Trump.
“And nor do I believe that is inevitable and nor do I believe that is what the British people want either.
“The danger is this, the Prime Minister feels it is an inevitable consequence of the decision to leave the EU that we are driven into the arms of president Trump.”
Warnings to Mrs May also emerged from Tory MPs, with former minister Alistair Burt noting: “I don’t believe that this Bill provides much opportunity for the addition of detail to Government future negotiation – the Government needs a pretty open hand – though one or two amendments might help the Government in keeping and retaining parliamentary support.”
Among the Labour MPs who said they would vote against the Bill, Chris Bryant (Rhondda) said: “Today I’m afraid I am voting and speaking on behalf of a minority of my constituents.”
He warned the Government’s Brexit plans would do “untold damage” to his constituents and make the UK “poorer” and “weaker”.
But he acknowledged voting against the majority view of his constituents could cost him his job.
He said: “In the end there is no point in any single one of us being a member of this House if we don’t have things that we believe in and that we are prepared to fight for and, if necessary, lay down our job for.”
One MP appeared to say “suicide” as the result for the vote on the Bill’s second reading was announced in the Commons.