Labour rebels help UK Government pass repeal bill at stage 2

Written by Tom Freeman and Kevin Schofield on 12 September 2017 in News

Jeremy Corbyn hit by Labour rebellion as MPs back Brexit bill in midnight vote

Commons bench - Parliament

The UK Government's flagship Brexit bill was given the backing of the Commons last night after a number of Labour MPs rebelled against the leadership.

Parliament voted 326 to 290 shortly after midnight to support the EU (Withdrawal) Bill at second reading, meaning it will now proceed to line-by-line scrutiny at committee stage.

The victory comes despite warnings from Labour and the Scottish and Welsh governments that it represents a "power grab" by ministers.


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It was thought some Conservative MPs might rebel but ministers promised to consider safeguards as the legislation moves onto the next stage, and Tory and DUP MPs backed the bill.

However seven Labour MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn to back it, with several more abstaining.

The Labour leader had claimed that so-called "Henry VIII clauses" contained in the bill give ministers sweeping powers to change the law without the approval of parliament.

But during a marathon Commons debate, some of his MPs claimed that by failing to vote for the bill, Labour was betraying the result of last year's EU referendum.

Former minister Caroline Flint, the MP for Don Valley, said: "I believe Labour's job is to improve the bill by amending it, not killing the bill at the beginning of its passage through parliament. 

"Whatever side of the debate you fall on, if you honestly accept the result as the will of the British people, you are honour-bound to see it through to make the best of it."

Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: "I will be voting for the only option for the referendum result to be implemented - that was the wish of my constituents and that was the will of the country. I'm on the side of the majority of people who voted to come out."

But Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "This is a deeply disappointing result. This bill is an affront to parliamentary democracy and a naked power grab by Government Ministers. It leaves rights unprotected, it silences Parliament on key decisions and undermines the devolution settlement.

"It will make the Brexit process more uncertain, and lead to division and chaos when we need unity and clarity. Labour will seek to amend and remove the worst aspects from the Bill as it passes through Parliament. But the flaws are so fundamental it’s hard to see how this bill could ever be made fit for purpose."

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday called for parties to unite to prevent the bill undermining the Scottish Parliament.

SNP international affairs spokesperson Stephen Gethins said the "midnight railroading" of the bill was "a dark day for devolution and democracy".

“Despite the disappointment, I am pleased to see Labour’s shift in stance towards backing the SNP’s long-standing position on the importance of securing the best possible legislation and deal, and the dangers if opposition parties remain divided in their approach in holding this Tory government to account.

“This is echoed by yesterday's welcome comments by Jeremy Corbyn on seeking a deal whereby the UK stays in the Single Market.

“The challenge now is for MPs across the Chamber to unite behind a common purpose in ensuring that this UK government is prevented from railroading further Brexit legislation through that risks the very foundations of devolution.”

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