Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
13 March 2017

Brexit bill passed as MPs reject Lords’ amendments

The Commons voted against guaranteeing EU nationals' rights and ensuring a "meaningful vote" on the outcome of the negotiations. 

By George Eaton

Theresa May has got the “clean” Brexit bill she wanted. MPs have rejected the Lords amendments guaranteeing EU nationals’ rights and giving parliament a “meaningful vote” on the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations. They voted 335 to 287 against the former and 331 to 286 against the latter. Just two Tory MPs (Alex Chalk and Dr. Tania Mathias) voted in favour of EU nationals’ rights and none backed a “meaningful vote”. 

Though David Davis made no formal concession to the rebels, he emphasised that he recognised Britain’s “moral responsibility” to the UK’s four million EU citizens. The Brexit secretary also reaffirmed his belief that a “swift agreement” with other European countries would be reached (though the government has squandered a chance to earn goodwill). 

Davis gave no ground on a “meaningful vote” but acknowledged that parliament would have “its say” if the UK left the EU without a new trade agreement (opposition parties and backbenchers could table a motion). Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and one of the Tory rebels (he abstained), denounced Davis’s stance as “deranged”. He said: “I’m concerned about getting an assurance from [David Davis] that, at the end of the process if there is no deal, which will be a very significant moment in this country’s history, parliament has an opportunity to debate and vote on that.

“Far from that being an obstruction of the process, I would expect that to be part of the normal constitutional process and the government to be seeking the endorsement of the House for that very significant act.

“And I do worry that [Davis], who I think personally may agree with me, has been prevented from saying that at the despatch box. But I’m afraid I’m not prepared to follow processes which appear to me to be, frankly, deranged. There is a clear way of doing thing and, if we follow them, we will come up with the right decision.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

The bill will now return to the Lords where it will be approved. Peers signalled in advance that they would not engage in parliamentary ping-pong – the siz e of the government’s victory means there is no purpose in doing so. After the bill receives Royal Assent, Theresa May will be empowered to trigger Article 50 at the end of this month. Until this afternoon, many Conservatives expected her to do so tomorrow, but after Nicola Sturgeon’s dramatic intervention this morning, May has wisely bided her time. Formally declaring Brexit tomorrow would have been a willfully provocative act after the SNP’s demand for a second referendum. 

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery