In a victory for Prime Minister Theresa May, the UK Parliament’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to trigger Britain’s exit from the European Union, defeating attempts by pro-EU lawmakers to attach extra conditions to her plan to start divorce talks by March 31. 494 to 122 lawmakers voted in favor of a law giving EU nationals the automatic right to remain in the UK as the first piece of legislation to authorise Brexit made its way through the Commons, ending days of intense debate which have tested May’s slim parliamentary majority.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) February 8, 2017
The vote prompted a delighted Nigel Farage to tweet “I never thought I’d see the day where the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted for Britain to Leave the European Union.”
I never thought I’d see the day where the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted for Britain to Leave the European Union.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 8, 2017
The bill must now be approved by the upper chamber, in which May does not have a majority, before it becomes law. As the FT adds, MPs voted on eight clauses and amendments during the course of Wednesday evening. They included “clause 57”, tabled by Labour, requiring the government to guarantee the rights of EU migrants before Article 50 is triggered.
Ed Vaizey, a former Conservative minister, said he would not vote against his own government but called for assurances as soon as possible for EU workers, who were “devastated” after having been “plunged into uncertainty”. Another controversial amendment, tabled by the Lib Dems, called for a second EU referendum before Britain leaves the EU.
The legislation is set to move to the Lords this month for further scrutiny, where there could be fresh amendments.
May had earlier on Tuesday closed down a Conservative rebellion over Brexit by promising MPs a vote on the final draft of any EU exit agreement. That pledge was initially hailed by Labour as a “huge” concession; the euphoria subsided as ministers made it clear that if parliament opposed the deal, Britain would simply leave the EU with no deal at all.
Nonetheless, the promise of a “meaningful” vote on the terms of Brexit helped to appease pro-EU Tories, who wanted parliament to have in effect a veto on the terms of Britain’s exit.
Judging by the market’s non-existant reaction, the outcome of the vote was largely priced in.
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