A new law to give prime minister Theresa May the green light to begin divorce proceedings with the European Union passed a major hurdle after an overwhelming majority of MPs gave it their backing.
A total of 47 Labour MPs defied their leader’s three-line whip joining the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats and a sole Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, to vote against the bill.
But the legislation still moved to the next stage after it passed by 498 votes for to 114 against – a majority of 384.
The historic vote came after a series of shadow cabinet resignations by Labour MPs who said they could not follow leader Jeremy Corbyn and back the bill.
But the “real battle” over Brexit will begin next week when MPs attempt to amend legislation, the shadow Brexit secretary has said.
Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would seek to gain guarantees that Parliament would have a “meaningful” vote on the final deal Mrs May achieves.
On the second day of the 17-hour debate, former Chancellor and prominent Remain advocate George Osborne warned blocking Brexit risked “putting Parliament against people” and provoking a “deep constitutional crisis” in Britain.
The former chancellor added people who already feel estranged would be alienated further as he pledged to back legislation designed to allow Prime Minister Theresa May to start the formal Brexit talks.
His remarks came after former Labour leader Ed Miliband warned Mrs May against feeling an inevitable consequence of leaving the EU is being “driven into the arms” of US president Donald Trump.
Opening the second day of the debate, Mr Miliband said he accepted the referendum result – adding he will vote for the Bill to receive a second reading.
MPs will now await the publication on Thursday of the government’s promised white paper setting out its strategy for withdrawal from the EU.
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill’s committee stage begins on Monday and ends on Wednesday next week.
All of Suffolk and north Essex’s MPs voted in favour of the legislation.
MPs from across Suffolk and Essex spoke during the 17-hour debate in the House of Commons on the terms of Brexit.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who campaigned for Remain, said that while he accepted the result of the vote, he did have concerns.
He warned against a game of “protectionist chicken with the EU” and also warned that immigration could not be reduced until there was a workforce “willing and able” to step into the breach.
On the issue of the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter, said it was difficult to enter into negotiations unless Britain had a similar agreement from the EU to protect the rights of British citizens living elsewhere in Europe.
Braintree MP James Cleverly said Brexit provided an opportunity, but warned that they had to “listen very carefully to people in Britain who clearly feel that they have not been listened to up until this point.”
Mrs May has set a deadline of March 31 for invoking Article 50, getting official exit talks started.
Published by East Anglian Daily Times.