Boris Johnson’s new Brexit bill passes with six Labour MPs in favour

© UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit bill has been overwhelmingly approved by MPs at second reading, with 358 votes in favour and 234 against in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Labour MPs were whipped to vote against the withdrawal agreement bill on the basis that it would be damaging to jobs and the economy, and that the Prime Minister has scrapped several important negotiating obligations since winning a parliamentary majority.

Despite their whipping instructions, six Labour MPs voted in favour: Sarah Champion, Rosie Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Emma Lewell-Buck, Grahame Morris and Toby Perkins.

A further 32 Labour MPs had no vote recorded – including party chair Ian Lavery, shadow cabinet members John Healey, Jon Trickett and Andrew Gwynne, and frontbenchers Jim McMahon and Carolyn Harris.

It is not clear whether all of the MPs without votes recorded actively abstained, but many of them represent Leave constituencies and rebelled against the Labour whip on Brexit votes in the last parliament.

The list of abstentions included three MPs elected for the first time last week: Abena Oppong-Asare, Zarah Sultana and Charlotte Nichols. The latter, who represents Leave-voting Warrington North, tweeted an explanation.

All Tory MPs voted in favour of the bill at second reading apart from ten, who had no votes recorded. Every Conservative candidate signed up to support Johnson’s Brexit deal ahead of the election.

During the Brexit debate, rebel Lewell-Buck told the House of Commons: “I will always deliver on the promises that I make to my constituents. Their faith in me always matters. My word to them matters.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I cannot vote with my party today, but I will always put my constituents before everything else, because the day I do not is the day I no longer deserve the honour of being their voice in this place.”

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, warned the government to “be careful”. Referring to the general election result, he said: “Doing things because the government have a majority does not mean that those things are right.”

The leadership hopeful added: “As a result of the general election – as a result of the majority that the government have, and the mandate that they have – we are leaving the EU. We will have left the EU within the next six months, and whatever side we were on, or even if we were on no side at all, the Leave-Remain argument will go with us.”

Potential leadership candidate Lisa Nandy, who voted for the Brexit bill at second reading last time but voted against today, criticised the government’s decision to drop a commitment that would have protected child refugees after Brexit.

Directing her comments towards the Prime Minister, the MP for Wigan said: “He is right that he has won a mandate to get Brexit done. But what he has not earned is the right to shoehorn into this legislation measures that are a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

“If he thinks that people in towns like mine, who believe that we deliver Brexit, want to see us turn our back on decency and tolerance and kindness and warmth and empathy, he is wrong. Will he take these measures about child refugees out of this bill?”

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