Within the last hour MP’s have voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the governments European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill to the final stage of debate in the House of Commons.
The final stage, comprising a third reading of the bill was approved by a commons vote of 494 votes for to 122 votes against- a majority of 372.
What happens at a third reading?
- Debate on the Bill is usually short, and limited to what is actually in the Bill, rather than, as at second reading, what might have been included.
- Amendments (proposals for change) cannot be made to a Bill at third reading in the Commons.
- At the end of the debate, the House decides (votes on) whether to approve the third reading of the Bill.
After that if the bill is approved, it passes to the House of Lords for its first reading and debate. Once the bill passes in the House of Lords it moves forward for Royal Assent and will eventually become law.
Why is this significant?
The passage of the bill into the third stage of reading stops opposition parties from tabling amendments which could derail the governments Brexit agenda.
Many amendments to the bill have been tabled as part of the second reading and have been successfully defeated in subsequent parliamentary votes.
Its a crucial victory in the governments timetable of a 31st March triggering of Article 50 and the commencement of the UK leaving the EU.
David Davis, Secretary of State for Brexit released the following statement after the vote:
“We’ve seen a historic vote tonight – a big majority for getting on with negotiating our exit from the EU and a strong, new partnership with its member states.
It has been a serious debate, a healthy debate, with contributions from MP’s representing all parts of the UK, and I respect the strong views on all sides.
The decision on EU membership has been made by the people we serve. It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the Referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country.”
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage immediately took to Twitter to express his delight at the positive vote:
I never thought I’d see the day where the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted for Britain to Leave the European Union.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) 8 February 2017
Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who chaired the Vote Leave campaign said: “This bill has passed with significant majorities unamended which is a clear signal to the House of Lords that they should do the same.”
The vote was not without some controversy however, as Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis resigned his post in order to defy the Labour parties three line whip and vote against passing the bill.
Mr Lewis, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement via the party saying: “When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be ‘Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich’. I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.”
Mr Corbyn said he understood the difficult position of some of his MP’s but said they had been ordered to back the Article 50 because the party would not “block Brexit”.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who was widely derided after she missed last week’s initial vote on the bill due to a migraine, backed it this time, saying: “I’m a loyal member of the shadow cabinet and I’m loyal to Jeremy Corbyn.”