British Prime Minister Theresa May has won a crucial vote in the UK Parliament, which will give her the authority to officially trigger Brexit and start negotiations for leaving the 28-member European Union (EU).
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill had its final debate and vote on Wednesday night to allow the British Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin a two-year period of negotiations for the UK’s new deal as a non-member of the European Union (EU) by 2019. The draft legislation was approved by 494 votes to 122, and now moves to the House of Lords.
Shadow business secretary Clive Lewis was one of 52 Labour MPs to defy party orders to back the bill and he resigned from the front bench. The Commons debated the last set of amendments to the Bill, including on key principles for the negotiation process, before the bill went on to its third and final reading for the vote.
So far the bill had passed two days of debate in the Lower House of the UK Parliament without being altered. The Opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had instructed his MPs to vote in favour of the bill whether any amendments are made or not.
However, he faced a second round of party rebellion after over 49 MPs had defied the whip at the last vote earlier in February. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who missed tthe initial vote on the bill, backed it this time.
May herself faced a rebellion of up to a dozen of her Conservative MPs, who are expected to defy the party’s whip and vote for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK to be guaranteed before Brexit negotiations begin. She managed to minimise the Tory rebellion on Tuesday by promising a Commons vote on the Brexit agreement before it is finalised.
Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, welcomed this as an important concession but others have dismissed it as a “take it or leave it” offer.
Now that the bill had passed the Commons, it will be debated in the House of Lords after it returns from recess on February 20, where it is expected to be given the final nod. The bill was tabled in February after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs and peers must have a say before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty could be triggered.
It rejected the UK government’s argument that May had sufficient executive powers to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.
David Davis, UK minister for exiting the European Union, had opened the debate in the House of Commons with a clear message to MPs that they must implement a decision made by the people in the June 2016 referendum with 51.9% wanting to leave the EU and 48.1% wanting to remain within the 28-nation economic bloc.