MPs pass Brexit bill at second reading – but reject timetable

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The House of Commons voted in favour of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill at its second reading tonight by a majority of 30, with 329 votes to 299. This win for the Prime Minister is supposed to allow the withdrawal agreement legislation to proceed to the next stage.

But MPs have also voted to reject the government’s programme motion by 322 votes to 308, with a majority of 14. In the chamber earlier, Boris Johnson said he could decide to pull the Brexit bill if this motion were to fall and an extension of significant length were granted.

At that point, the Prime Minister vowed that he would try to trigger an early election again. This is dependent, however, on the length of the EU’s offer of a Brexit delay.

Parliamentarians voted down the preferred timetable put forward by the government because they were concerned that the complex piece of legislation would otherwise have been rushed through without proper scrutiny and thorough debate.

The Labour Party said it would “remain available to seek to agree a consensus on a timetable to scrutinise this deal that would command the support of all sides of the House”, according to a letter from opposition chief whip Nick Brown.

Reacting to the results of the votes in the chamber, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Tonight, the House has refused to be bounced into debating a hugely significantly piece of legislation in just two days with barely any notice or an analysis of the economic impact of this bill.

“The Prime Minister is the author of his own misfortune. So I make this offer to him tonight: work with all of us to agree a reasonable timetable, and I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinise – and I hope amend – the detail of this bill.

The Labour leader concluded: “That would be the sensible way forward, and that’s the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight.”

In response, Boris Johnson expressed disappointment over the Commons opting for further delay. He said the EU “must make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay”. 

Rather than announce that he would now try to force an early election, the Prime Minister claimed that the government would “accelerate” preparations for no deal and pause the Brexit legislation.

Labour rebels

Voted for the Brexit bill at second reading (19): Sir Kevin Barron, Sarah Champion, Rosie Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Gloria de Piero, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint, Mike Hill, Dan Jarvis, Emma Lewell-Buck, John Mann, Grahame Morris, Lisa Nandy, Melanie Onn, Stephanie Peacock, Jo Platt, Ruth Smeeth, Laura Smith, Gareth Snell.

Voted for the programme motion (5): Sir Kevin Barron, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint, Kate Hoey, John Mann.

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