In a landslide victory for Brexiteers a Government amendment binding MPs to respect the prime minister’s Brexit timetable in return for a greater role in the negotiations passed by 461 votes to 89.
The history defining paragraph states that parliament “calls on the Government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017” – effectively ending any Remoaner plot to indefinity delay divorce talks with Brussels.
It also basically makes the current Supreme Court proceedings over whether or not Mrs May can trigger Article 50 without parliament’s consent redundant, because MPs are now signed up to starting the process anyway.
Government insiders were tonight hailing the passing of the motion as a huge success, with senior Brexiteers saying Labour and rebel europhiles “had their bluff called” and chose to respect the will of the people.
But loser Tim Farron, who voted against the amendment, whined: “I want democracy not a stitch up.”
It was backed by pro-EU Tory and Labour MPs in return for another clause, which promises that MPs will be involved in a “full and transparent debate” on the Government’s plan for negotiating Brexit.
MPs then backed a Labour motion, which sparked the debate in the first place, which binds the Government to inform parliament of its negotiating objectives before Article 50 is triggered.
The vote followed a mammoth debate in the House of Commons which lasted all afternoon, and which saw Remain and Brexit MPs once more clash over the meaning of Brexit.
Just before the decision was taken Robin Walker, the Minister for Exiting the European Union, urged MPs to back the amendment, which he said would make sure Government was “scrutinished” over its Brexit approach without “binding its hands” in negotiations with Brussels.
He told the House: “The Government is getting on with the job of delivering on the mandate delivered by the British people. We are taking our time to get the details right. We are moving on from 40 years of EU membership doing this properly and effectively is a complex challenge with a wide range of outcomes.
“Parliamentary scrutiny is invaluable and it’s important our approach is scrutinised by the expertise of both houses of parliament, but that cannot be at the expense of binding the Government’s hands in negotiations.
“We remain committed to providing the house with regular updates on our plans to deliver on the clear mandate given by the British people to leave.”
The vote was immediately welcomed by prominent Brexit campaigners, who said it was a “significant step” in ensuring that the result of the referendum was delivered on by politicians.
Richard Tice, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave said: “This vote is a very significant step forward in the Brexit process.
“Parliamentarians who, today, backed the Government’s amendment have honoured the democratic decision taken by the British people in the EU referendum.
“Going forward, these parliamentarians who voted with the Government must not sabotage the Brexit process.
“Any attempt to delay the process after backing this amendment would be an unforgivable betrayal of the British people.”
And leading Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith said the result of the vote was an “historic moment” in British parliamentary history.
He told Sky News: “This is actually a very big moment. At no stage has parliament ever voted to leave the European Union or against the European Union. Now we can get on with it.”
Earlier a succession of Brexit-backing MPs lined up to give rip-roaring speeches to the Commons chamber outlining how voters would feel betrayed by any attempt to thwart the referendum result.
Kwai Kwarteng, the Tory MP for Spelthorne, savaged Remoaners who he accused of trying to “delay and obstruct the will of the people” by voting against the Government amendment.
To raucous cheers he told the House: “A lot of the words we’ve heard are gameplay. People say they respect the will of the people, but we know they have no intention of respecting the will of the people.
“We know many of these people want to frustrate the will of the people. All of this obfuscation, this delay, all the smokescreen, the dust in the eyes is to one end and one end only – they want to stay in the EU at all costs.
“And I say to them very plainly that horse has bolted, the ship has left – we’re not going back to the EU and the sooner they accept that very basic proposition the better it will be for their constituents and for the country as a whole.”
Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset, said that people knew exactly what they were voting for because “David Cameron spent £9 million of taxpayers money to tell us that in the literature that came through our doors”.
He blasted: “The vote to leave came with no ifs, buts, conditions, nothing. Leaving the EU means leaving everything to do with the EU – it could not be clearer.
“I think this issue over triggering Article 50 is a fig leaf by those who wish to postpone at best, or even prevent exit from the EU at worst.
“The British people voted to leave the EU the only way we can do that is to trigger Article 50. It’s as simple as that and we hear right across the house this afternoon ‘uncertainty, uncertainty’ – yes, because people are prevaricating against the will of the British people. That is what is causing uncertainty across our land.”
Tory veteran and passionate europhile Ken Clarke was the only Conservative not to back the amendment, which he argued had not secured any significant concessions from the Government.
He said: “There is no policy at the moment and they’re certainly not agreeing to submit to any vote of parliament when they’ve got one.
“I want a white paper, you set out the objectives you’re pursuing, you get the support of parliament and then you trigger Article 50 and start the negotiations.”
The Government amendment was backed by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which argued that it had secured a major concession from Mrs May by geting her to agree to more parliamentary scrutiny of her Brexit plans.
Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman told the debate: “There is no mandate for what is known as hard Brexit and there is no consensus for hard Brexit. How we leave is an urgent matter of policy that should be debated and decided in this house. This house must see the plan.”
Calling on the Government to publish a detailed plan – some MPs are calling for a white paper – outlining its negotiating aims, she added: “This is what taking back control means. The Government is going to have to get used to it – with control comes accountability and the Government will no longer be able to hide behind the excuse that the EU made us do it, it will need to account for its own decisions.”
December 8th, 2016: Express