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12 September 2017

The EU Withdrawal Bill is through – but here’s why Theresa May still needs to worry

Even Brexiteers have criticised the wide-ranging powers the bill gives the executive.

By Stephen Bush

Much ado about nothing? The government eased to victory on the second reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons yesterday as every Conservative MP bar Ken Clarke (who abstained) fell in line, with the votes of the DUP plus seven Labour leavers (John Mann, Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer, Kelvin Hopkins, Frank Field, Ronnie Campbell and Dennis Skinner) padding the government margin.

But there were signs of trouble ahead for Theresa May and Chief Whip Gavin Williamson. That Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment, which included some warm words about recognising the result and criticised the Henry VIII clauses was able to attract the support even of the Seven Dwarfs/Magnificent Seven (delete according to taste) means that Conservative backbenchers will find it much easier to be influential when the bill goes through committee stage. 

With a number of Brexiteers joining the chorus criticising the wide-ranging powers the bill votes the executive, the government will almost certainly have to make significant concessions on the detail. It’s a reminder of the PM’s big headache: that while she has a comfortable majority on the question of whether or not Brexit will happen, her ability to control the detail of the United Kingdom’s exit strategy is a lot more limited.

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