The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which will allow Theresa May to start the Brexit process, cleared its first parliamentary hurdle by a vote in the Commons of 498 to 114.
Few MPs think they can stop the process, and instead want to mitigate ‘hard Brexit’ they fear will damage the UK.
The vote was embarrassing for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as 47 of his MPs (full list here) rebelled against a three-line whip and vote against triggering Article 50.
The vote was hailed by the eurosceptic Mail, which has been a vocal cheerleader of the UK quitting the European Union for years.
In its sub-headline, the newspaper suggested MPs who trotted through the ‘no’ lobby had tempered its joy, declaring:
“114 MPs betray will of the people.”
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage echoed the sentiment, arguing the “114 enemies of democracy should be made to pay the price at the ballot box”.
The charges are reminiscent of a Daily Mail front page in November when three Supreme Court judges were branded “enemies of the people” after the successful Article 50 challenge.
The Court ruled May cannot trigger Brexit without first consulting Parliament, a decision which left many Leave supporters furious.
Many of the MPs voting against the ‘Brexit Bill’ argue their constituencies, which they were elected to represent, voted to Remain and are therefore reflecting their wishes. SNP MPs make a similar contention, pointing out Scotland voted against Brexit.
But not all of them represent Remain areas. Labour MP Chris Bryant, whose South Wales constituency voted to Leave, said in the Commons he was “voting and speaking on behalf of a minority of my constituents”.
MPs responded to the charges on Twitter. The SNP’s John Nicolson took Farage to task, urging the MEP - who has failed six times to become an MP - to challenge him in his East Dunbartonshire constituency.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Stella Creasy was condemned by Ukip donor and Farage associate Arron Banks.
The Walthamstow MP made clear the vote was not about whether Brexit happens. Many are demanding further details on the terms of quitting the EU before giving their consent.
Author: Graeme Demianyk