British Prime Minister Theresa May’s landmark bill to pave the way for the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) cleared its major hurdle in the House of Commons in the early hours of Tuesday.
MPs backed the EU Withdrawal Bill by 326 votes to 290 despite critics warning that it represented a “power grab” by ministers. The bill, which will end the supremacy of EU law in the UK, now moves onto its next parliamentary stage.
May welcomed the Commons vote, saying the bill offered “certainty and clarity” — but Labour described it as an “affront to parliamentary democracy”, the BBC reported.
Seven opposition Labour MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn’s order to oppose the bill — Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer. None of the Conservatives voted against it.
Having cleared the second reading stage, the bill will now face more attempts to change it with MPs, including several senior Conservative backbenchers, publishing a proposed 157 amendments, covering 59 pages, the report said.
Previously referred to as the Great Repeal Bill, the EU Withdrawal Bill overturns the 1972 European Communities Act which took the UK into the then European Economic Community.
It will also convert all existing EU laws into UK law, to ensure there are no gaps in legislation on Brexit day. Critics’ concerns centre on ministers giving themselves the power to make changes to laws during this process without consulting MPs.
The government says it needs to be able to make minor technical changes to ensure a smooth transition, but fears were raised that ministers were getting sweeping powers to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.
More than 100 MPs had their say during the two-day second reading debate. Labour, which denounced the “vague offers” of concessions, mostly voted against the bill.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the bill was a “naked power grab” by the government, adding that “this is a deeply disappointing result”.
He said: “Labour will seek to amend and remove the worst aspects from the bill but the flaws are so fundamental it’s hard to see how this could ever be made fit for purpose.”
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said MPs who backed the bill should feel “ashamed”. “This is a dark day for the mother of parliaments,” he added.
Labour’s Chris Bryant accused May’s ministers of ignoring democracy, describing the bill as “utterly pernicious and dangerous”.