Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The House of Commons votes to trigger article 50 by March 2017

MPs have voted in favour of the Government's timetable to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and thereby begin the formal process for leaving the European Union by the end of March 2017, on condition that the Prime Minister publishes a Brexit plan.
This motion was approved by 448 votes to 75 - a majority of 373, as you can read here.

Labour had tabled a motion calling on the government to publish a plan for Brexit. The government indicated that it would accept the motion, but also add an amendment resolving to "respect the decision of the British people as expressed in the referendum" and activate of Article 50 by the end of March. This was the amendment:

The first vote, which was to add the Government amendment above to the original Labour motion, was in favour by 461 votes to 89, a majority of 372. The amended motion was then carried by the margin given above.

The overwhelming majority of Conservatives and many Labour MPs voted both for the motion and the amendment: the votes against came from the SNP, the Lib/Dems, a minority of Labour MPs, and Ken Clarke, who was the only Conservative to vote against the motion.

The Independent's John Rentoul has tweeted that in view of the fact that the above has now been passed by the House of Commons, "pointless circus at Supreme Court can pack up & go home."

That's not going to happen, but this does pretty well confirm that there is a clear majority in the House of Commons to respect the referendum result. Unless the government loses in both the Supreme Court and the House of Lords, the referendum result will be respected in the sense that Britain will leave the EU.

Which does not mean that there is not every justification to look carefully at the terms on which Brexit takes place. Of course there should be a debate about the objectives for which we negotiate, of course parliament should be involved in it, and of course the wishes of both the 52% who voted leave and the legitimate concerns of the 48% who voted remain should be taken into account in that process.

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