After David Davis warned that MPs opposing the government’s EU repeal bill would be voting for a ‘chaotic’ exit from the EU, the Brexit secretary can take heart that the majority of Parliamentarians took his advice onboard. This morning MPs voted in favour of the government’s EU (withdrawal) bill at its second reading by 326 votes to 290, in the first key Commons test of the legislation.
On hearing the news, the Prime Minister issued a statement on the ‘solid foundations’ the bill provides:
‘Earlier this morning Parliament took a historic decision to back the will of the British people and vote for a bill which gives certainty and clarity ahead of our withdrawal from the European Union.
Although there is more to do, this decision means we can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation.’
The bill, which transposes EU law into British law, now moves onto its next Parliamentary stage. However, the hard work is only just beginning. Many Conservative MPs kept silent on their objections to the bill in this round on the promise that they could provide proper scrutiny of the legislation at the committee stage. There’s a high chance the government will now need to make concessions on the so-called ‘Henry VIII’ powers the bill gives to the governing party.
As for Labour, the party’s MPs were ordered to vote against the bill. However, seven MPs – including Dennis Skinner and John Mann – voted with the government while another 13 are thought to have abstained. The scale of the rebellion is a reminder that when Labour does eventually clarify its Brexit position, it will cause division within the party.