MPS tonight voted by 326 votes to 290 votes to back Theresa May’s Brexit Bill – despite warnings of a “power grab” by ministers.
No 10’s “confident” predictions of victory were vindicated in a 36-vote Government majority vote after a clutch of Labour rebels pledged to team up with Tories and the DUP so the EU (Withdrawal) Bill could clear its latest Commons hurdle.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “This is a deeply disappointing result.
“This Bill is an affront to parliamentary democracy and a naked power grab by Government Ministers. It leaves rights unprotected, it silences Parliament on key decisions and undermines the devolution settlement.
“It will make the Brexit process more uncertain, and lead to division and chaos when we need unity and clarity.
“Labour will seek to amend and remove the worst aspects from the Bill as it passes through Parliament. But the flaws are so fundamental it’s hard to see how this Bill could ever be made fit for purpose”.
Responding to the vote, Theresa May said: “Earlier this morning Parliament took a historic decision to back the will of the British people and vote for a bill which gives certainty and clarity ahead of our withdrawal from the European Union.
“Although there is more to do, this decision means we can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation.”
An amendment tabled by Jeremy Corbyn which would have thrown the bill out failed by 22 votes.
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson, said: “This is a dark day for the mother of parliaments. The Liberal Democrats will fight to amend the bill in Committee to stop this affront to democracy.”
“Labour rebels have handed the government sweeping anti-democratic powers. A significant number walked hand in hand with the Tories and have given the government extreme powers not seen since the Middle Ages.”
The Bill shifts existing EU laws on to the UK statue book to give businesses and citizens certainty for when Britain leaves the bloc.
But Jeremy Corbyn labelled it “a power grab by the Government at the expense of our democratically elected Parliament”.
The Labour leader will tell the TUC Congress in Brighton tomorrow of his fears that Britain will end up as a “deregulated free market tax haven” under the Tory approach to Brexit.
The landmark legislation which paves the way for the UK’s withdrawal from Brussels comes 15 months after the country voted by 52% to 48% to quit the bloc.
Overturning the decision to enter the European Economic Community, it repeals the 1972 Act that took Britain in, and moves EU rules and regulations onto the domestic law book.
KEIR STARMER TEARS BREXIT REPEAL BILL TO SHREDS
But senior Tories warned they would try and amend the flagship Bill, previously called the Great Repeal Bill, as it continues its passage through Parliament – vowing to change it in the committee stage.
Select committee chairs Maria Miller, Bob Neill and Bernard Jenkin, along with Labour’s Frank Field, pledged support for tonight’s second reading vote but demanded amendments to ensure the Bill becomes law.
Ms Miller said people “did not vote for a diminution of their rights”.
Former minister Mr Neill said the Bill was “necessary” but there were a “number of areas” where it needed “improvement”.
What are Henry VIII powers?
Since Theresa May launched her Brexit Repeal Bill,there’s been furious debate about ‘Henry VIII powers’.
So what are they?
It’s all to do with the difference between what us geeks call primary and secondary legislation.
Primary laws are Acts of Parliament and go through a long, line-by-line process of approval by MPs and the House of Lords.
But with secondary laws it’s ‘take it or leave it’. There’s no chance to edit them, and in some cases (when they go through ‘the negative procedure’) they actually become law before MPs get to challenge them. The last time one of these was blocked was 1979.
These big differences mean primary laws are much more powerful. Quite rightly, some secondary laws can be crushed by the courts – primary laws can’t.
Yet a Henry VIII power lets the PM make a secondary law that edits a primary law.
The process gets its name from the six-wived Tudor King who ‘ruled by proclamation’ thanks to the 1539 Statute of Proclamations.
The government claims it needs the power, which ends on 29 March 2021, to correct ‘deficiencies’ in EU-inspired law after Brexit.
It can’t be used to change taxes or criminal offences, make laws retrospectively or change the Human Rights Act.
But even Tory MPs and a House of Lords committee have voiced fears about the powers. Labour’s Keir Starmer said: “So much for taking back control.”