North East MPs overwhelmingly back Brexit Bill

Proposals to allow Theresa May to start formal Brexit talks have passed their first Commons test following overwhelming support from MPs - including those from the North East.
The result of tonight's vote is announced in the CommonsThe result of tonight's vote is announced in the Commons
The result of tonight's vote is announced in the Commons

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was given a second reading by 498 votes to 114 - a majority of 384.

Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Sharon Hodgson (Washington & Sunderland West), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Grahame Morris (Easington), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South) and Iain Wright (Hartlepool) all voted in favour of the Bill.

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A total of 47 Labour MPs defied leader Jeremy Corbyn's orders and voted against. Newcastle upon Tyne North's Catherine McKinnell was the only North East MP to do so.

Former chancellor Ken Clarke was the only Conservative to vote against the legislation.

The legislation allows the Prime Minister to decide when to trigger Article 50 and therefore begin the two-year process of negotiation on Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Former Chancellor George Osborne used the second day of debate to warn that blocking Brexit risks "putting Parliament against people" and provoking a "deep constitutional crisis" in Britain.

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He added the Government has chosen "not to make the economy the priority in this negotiation, they have prioritised immigration control".

Mr Osborne also claimed negotiations will be a "trade off, as all divorces are, between access and money" as the UK seeks to reduce its financial commitments to the bloc, adding they could be "rather bitter" as he committed himself to the battle ahead.

His remarks came after Labour former leader Ed Miliband warned Mrs May against feeling an inevitable consequence of leaving the EU is being "driven into the arms" of US president Donald Trump.

Mr Miliband said: "I can go along with the Prime Minister that Brexit means Brexit but I cannot go along with the idea that Brexit means Trump.

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"And nor do I believe that is inevitable and nor do I believe that is what the British people want either.

"The danger is this, the Prime Minister feels it is an inevitable consequence of the decision to leave the EU that we are driven into the arms of president Trump."

Warnings to Mrs May also emerged from Tory MPs, with former minister Alistair Burt noting: "I don't believe that this Bill provides much opportunity for the addition of detail to Government future negotiation - the Government needs a pretty open hand - though one or two amendments might help the Government in keeping and retaining parliamentary support."

Among the Labour MPs who said they would vote against the Bill, Chris Bryant (Rhondda) said: "Today I'm afraid I am voting and speaking on behalf of a minority of my constituents."

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He warned the Government's Brexit plans would do "untold damage" to his constituents and make the UK "poorer" and "weaker".

But he acknowledged voting against the majority view of his constituents could cost him his job.

He said: "In the end there is no point in any single one of us being a member of this House if we don't have things that we believe in and that we are prepared to fight for and, if necessary, lay down our job for."

An SNP-led wrecking amendment which attempted to stop the Bill from progressing was earlier defeated by 336 votes to 100, a majority of 236.