Wednesday 8 February 2017 8:27 pm

MPs give final approval to Theresa May's Brexit Bill to kick off the process of leaving the European Union

The House of Commons has voted to approve the unamended Article 50 Bill in a historic night in Westminster.

MPs voted 494 to 122 in favour of the Bill being passed on for scrutiny in the House of Lords.

Labour and Conservative MPs were under strict orders to back the Article 50 Bill, although both sides saw some rebellion.

Five extra Labour MPs rebelled at the third reading of the government's Article 50 Bill, but they weren't enough to stop the House of Commons overwhelmingly voting in favour of giving Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50.

Ken Clarke was the sole Conservative rebel to vote against the third reading.

Read more: Labour shadow business secretary Clive Lewis quits frontbench

Brexit secretary David Davis said: 

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 MPs 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.

Before the final poll, Labour shadow business secretary Clive Lewis resigned in order to vote against the progress of the Article 50 Bill.

Lewis had promised constituents he would rather resign than pass the bill unamended, after voting with the government last week.

There had been much speculation over what shadow home secretary Diane Abbott would choose to do, but she opted to vote for the Bill.

It came after the government defeated a series of amendments on the Bill in votes on Wednesday afternoon.

Most notably, a clause tabled by Labour MP Harriet Harman, which would have guaranteed the rights of EU nationals currently in the UK, was blocked 332 – 290.

The topic has been been a recurring issue for the government, with MPs on all sides calling for a unilateral offer of support from the UK.

However, Prime Minister Theresa May has been clear that she would like to guarantee the rights of foreign nationals, and stressed on Monday that reaching agreement would be a priority “as soon as negotiations begin”.

Read more: MPs just voted overwhelmingly to back an Article 50 Bill

Earlier in the day, MPs also rejected a Lib Dem amendment that would have taken the UK to a second referendum.

Just 33 MPs backed the idea of a second public vote, including 19 Labour MPs.

Peers will now take their turn to debate the legislation, with May’s government still hoping to formally begin Brexit talks by the end of March.

 

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