Key Brexit legislation steered through first Commons test
Ministers steered key Brexit legislation through its first Commons test amid growing Tory unrest over setting an exit date in law.
The Government comfortably navigated two votes on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which seeks to transfer European law into British law, during the first group of amendments.
But debate focused on the Government’s desire to include an exit date in the Bill of 11pm on March 29 2019, with Tory backbenchers lining up to voice concerns.
Former chancellor Ken Clarke labelled the proposal “ridiculous and unnecessary”, adding: “It could be positively harmful to the national interest.”
Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve told MPS no amount of “arm twisting” would make him vote for the amendment, which was debated
but will not be voted upon until next month at the earliest.
Tory tempers frayed as debate neared the end of its fourth hour after Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) said: “Any MPS who voted for Article 50 but then do not want to fix the date are open to the charge that they don’t want us to leave the European Union.”
Labour MP Frank Field withdrew his amendment which sought to fix the Brexit date on March 30 2019 – an hour later than the Government’s proposal, in order to ensure that it matched British time rather than European time.
A Plaid Cymru amendment asking for the devolved legislatures to be required to grant consent to allow the Prime Minister to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 was defeated by 318 votes to 52, majority 266.
MPS later voted by 318 votes to 68, majority 250, that clause one – to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 – would be included in the Bill.
“Any MPS who voted for Article 50 but then do not want to fix the date are open to the charge that they don’t want us to leave the EU. BERNARD JENKIN
Nicola Sturgeon characterised talks with Theresa May as “constructive and cordial”.