MPs back Theresa May's bid to trigger Article 50 by end of March next year

Posted On: 
7th December 2016

MPs tonight overwhelmingly backed Theresa May's timetable for taking Britain out of the European Union.

MPs have backed the Government's plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.
Credit: 
PA Images

They voted by 461 to 89 to "respect the wishes" of most UK voters and trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.

A Labour motion calling on the Government to publish its Brexit plan before the two-year negotiations with the rest of the EU begins also passed by 448 votes to 75.

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The landmark vote - the first time that MPs have formally supported the Prime Minister's timetable - came at the end of a heated Commons debate lasting more than six hours.

Commons leader David Lidington - standing in for Mrs May at Prime Minister's Questions - had warned any MPs voting against the Government position would be “seeking to thwart the outcome of (the EU) referendum in the most profoundly undemocratic fashion".

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer warned the Government that although Labour was supporting the Government's timetable, that would not prevent it trying to improve the eventual Brexit deal.

He said: "Today is not a vote to trigger Article 50 or to give authority to the PM to do so; it is most certainly not a vote for Article 50.

"Unless the Supreme Court overrules the High Court, only legislation can do that. Nor does today preclude the Labour party or any other party putting down amendments to the legislation and having them voted upon."

In a significant development, Brexit Secretary David David said it was “inconceivable” that the Commons would not get a vote on the final deal Mrs May reaches with EU leaders - but he insisted MPs would not be able to overturn the outcome of the referendum."

"Any vote in this House at the end of the process would merely be on the deal; it could not reverse the fact that we had left the European Union," he said.

The debate also exposed Labour splits, with many of the party's MPs saying they would not be able to back thee Government's timetable.

Former Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham used the debate to attack his own party;s pro-immigration stance.

He said: "It is time for many of us on this side of the House to confront a hard truth. Our reluctance in confronting this debate is undermining the cohesion of our communities and the safety of our streets. I am no longer prepared to be complicit in that. We need answers to the public concerns – but answers that are based on hope, not on hate."

Splits also re-appeared on the Conservative votes during the debate. Ken Clarke said ministers had "no idea" what its Brexit strategy is and mocked Theresa May's recent comments: “We’ll probably be told that the plan is to have a red, white and blue Brexit.”

When Mr Davis gave way to pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry, he jabbed that she "has the support of the Labour party".