MPs give go-ahead for Brexit process to begin in March
Conservative and Labour MPs joined forces to give overwhelming backing to Theresa May’s timetable for leading Britain out of the European Union.
Following her promise to provide more details of her Brexit strategy, they supported her plan to invoke Article 50, which begins the formal process of withdrawal, by the end of March.
The vote was carried by 461 votes to 89, a majority of 372.
But there was significant dissent across the Commons, with 23 Labour MPs defying their leadership to vote against triggering Article 50.
Clarke joins rebels
The move was also opposed by 53 SNP MPs, five Liberal Democrats and the former Conservative Cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke.
An amended motion, which called for Mrs May to publish her Brexit plan ahead of invoking Article 50, was carried by 448 votes to 75, a majority of 373.
The Commons debate centred on Mrs May’s promise to give extra information about her Brexit strategy.
The Labour leadership, which wants her to publish her plans next month, signalled it could withdrawal its support if it believed she had not provided enough detail.
‘Late, vague plan’ not acceptable
The shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, warned that the party would not accept a “late, vague plan” for Brexit.
But Downing Street believes the Commons majority will take some of the sting out of the current Supreme Court case over whether Parliament should be given a formal vote on triggering Article 50.
If the government loses the case, ministers argue that it would be difficult for so many MPs to support moving Article 50 only to change their minds months later.
The Brexit Secretary David Davis told the Commons that the Government would set out its “strategic plans” ahead of invoking Article 50, but would not reveal anything which might “jeopardise our negotiating position”.
MPs to get final vote on deal
But in a move to mollify Eurosceptic critics, he repeated a promise that MPs would be given a vote on the final deal negotiated over the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc.
Asked whether Parliament would get a vote on the final Brexit deal, Mr Davis replied: “That’s what I expect. If the European Parliament has a vote, it’s inconceivable to me that this House doesn’t.”
However, he stressed that any vote would be on the agreement, and not on the principle of leaving the EU. The effect of defeat would be Britain leaving the union without a deal in place.
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.”
December 7th, 2016: iNews