British lawmakers voted by 326 to 290 in favour of backing the legislation, after more than 13 hours of debate, which will now go forward for further scrutiny by MPs.
Theresa May’s landmark EU (Withdrawal) Bill has passed its first parliamentary hurdle, paving the way for greater powers to be handed to ministers through the first major piece of Brexit legislation.
The Prime Minister described the vote as a “historic decision to back the will of the British people”, adding: “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.”
In a statement following the vote, Steve Baker, the minister for exiting the European Union, said the government would “look with the utmost seriousness at the amendments that are tabled.”
He said: “It is essential that we work together to deliver a bill that ensures a functioning legal system outside the EU.”
the Tory MP Anna Soubry – a critic of the Government’s Brexit approach – being criticised in the Commons by Labour MP David Lammy, who said: “Her bark has been loud, particularly on the Today programme, but her actions have been far less in these days that have followed those contributions.”
But it is clear that Ms May will face a greater threat from her own backbenchers in the next stages of the Bill as MPs seek to attach amendments to the Bill at the committee stage.
While May survived the early parliamentary Brexit skirmish, with MPs concluding two full days debating the principles of the bill Monday night, she faces many more controversial tests in the months ahead. With many of her party at odds over the shape of Britain’s post-Brexit future on issues like immigration and the economy, she could face much tighter votes than the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which is seen a crucial to a “smooth” Brexit,“politico report”.
May also faces another key vote Tuesday to ensure the government has a majority at committee stage. The make-up of committee usually follows the composition of the House of Commons, but the Conservative Party lost its majority in June. The government argues that because of its deal with Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs, it has a majority in the Commons, so it should also have a majority at committee stage. Its critics say the plan amounts to rigging the system.
A number of Conservatives joined the opposition in voicing concerns during the debate of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill about the fact it gives the government temporary powers to make secondary legislation, enabling corrections to be made to the laws, a move described by former Tory Minister Anna Soubry as a “power grab.”
The Bill’s aim is to transpose relevant EU law onto the UK statute book when the UK formally leaves the bloc in March 2019 and will also overturn the 1972 act that took Britain into the European Economic Community.
Major concerns had been raised, however, over the so-called Henry VIII powers in the Bill which grants ministers the power to amend law without normal parliamentary scrutiny – the reason for Labour’s decision to oppose the legislation.
But as MPs concluded debates at midnight a series of votes were then held. The Bill passed while Labour’s amendment – attempting to block the legislation.