Bill giving Theresa May power to start Brexit talks backed by MPs

Proposals to give UK Prime Minister Theresa May the power to start formal Brexit talks have cleared the House of Commons following overwhelming support from MPs.

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was given a third reading by 494 votes to 122 - a majority of 372.

The text of the short Bill was not changed by MPs following three days of debate to consider suggestions.

One MP was heard to shout "shame" after the result was announced, while there was some applause from the Tory benches.

Theresa May

A series of amendments were earlier defeated by the British Government, including measures requiring Britain to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the country.

The Bill will now progress to the House of Lords for further scrutiny by peers.

Mrs May hopes to start the formal Brexit talks by the end of March.

Meanshile, shadow business secretary Clive Lewis has quit Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet in order to defy the Labour leader's orders and vote against the Brexit Bill.

Mr Lewis said last week he would vote against the Bill at third reading if Labour amendments to safeguard against a "hard Brexit" were not passed.

And with the Bill coming through committee stage unamended, the senior frontbencher quit to vote against the Bill after Mr Corbyn imposed a three-line whip on his MPs to back it.

Shadow business secretary Clive Lewis. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Mr Lewis said he could not back the Bill given Norwich, in which his constituency lies, voted 56.2% to 43.8% to remain in the EU in June's referendum.

"When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be 'Norwich's voice in Westminster, not Westminster's voice in Norwich'," he said.

"I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.

"It is therefore with a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet.

"It has been a privilege to work with Jeremy Corbyn and be part of the shadow cabinet. I will continue to support our party and our leader from the backbenches to the very best of my ability."

Mr Corbyn said he was looking forward to working with Mr Lewis in the future.


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