Brexit: EU Withdrawal Bill passes after MPs traded barbs in late-night debate

 
Catherine Neilan
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Lights Out For Earth Hour 2012 in London
MPs debated all yesterday evening (Source: Getty)

Theresa May’s government has secured its face-saving victory over the EU Withdrawal Bill, thanks to a handful of Labour rebels.

MPs backed the EU Withdrawal Bill by 326 votes to 290 despite critics warning that it represented a "power grab" by ministers.

The vote was taken after many hours of intense debate and heated discussion. More than 100 MPs spoke over the two-day period given over to the bill.

Prominent Remain campaigner Anna Soubry told the House earlier in the evening: “We must begin the process [of leaving the European Union] and see it through...”.

However, the government looks set to face a series of proposed amendments at future stages of debate.

Arch-Brexiteer Peter Bone said: “I would be very surprised if this bill finishes up in exactly he same format at the end... it seems to me the government will be well advised to accept the reasonable amendments that improve the situation.”

There was general consensus that the bill was, as Conservative MP Derek Thomas put it, “the only game in town”, although as fellow Tory Sarah Wollaston said, the government must allow “sensible amendments” to be made at a later date.

The line of the day came from Conservative MP Edward Leigh, who dismissed concerns over the extent of powers enabled by the bill saying: "Henry VIII was a bastard, but he was my kind of bastard."

Critics of the bill included Green MP Caroline Lucas, who damned it as “zombie legislation”, while Labour MP Stephen Doughty said it was “all part of a similar agenda by the government to shut down democratic debate”.

Colleague Chris Bryant said the bill contained “clauses that [Turkish leader Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, [Venezuelan leader Nicolas] Maduro or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would be proud of”.

But not all Labour MPs were critical.

Don Valley MP and former Remainer Caroline Flint said the party should seek to "improve this bill, not kill it" - and pledged to abstain on the vote.

In total, seven Labour MPs – Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer - voted with the government.

The bill has now passed through to the committee stage, where MPs have pledged to put it under more rigorous scrutiny, particularly over the way it hands “sweeping” powers to ministers.

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