Brexit to move a step closer as attempts to block Britain's EU exit fail

MPs debate Britain's exit from the EUPA PA Wire/PA ImagesMPs debate Britain’s exit from the EU

LONDON — Britain’s departure from the European Union will move a step closer on Wednesday evening when MPs are likely to vote overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit.

Attempts by opposition MPs to block Britain’s exit are set to fail as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn orders his MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50 — the two-year process by which Britain can leave the EU.

Parliament will vote on whether to progress the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which if ultimately passed, would give prime minister Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50.

The bill was put forward by May’s government after they lost a Supreme Court case earlier this month on whether she has the power to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.

MPs are expected to sit until midnight, when they will vote on whether the bill should progress through Parliament. The SNP have successfully tabled a wrecking amendment which, if passed, would halt the further passage of the bill. However, while it is likely to gather a large amount of support from Labour and the Lib Dems, it will fall well short of the votes necessary to block the bill.

The bill will then pass to a committee of the whole House next week when MPs will attempt to amend it. MPs hope to add further clauses to the bill which would shape May’s negotiating strategy on matters including the Single Market and workers’ rights.

Failure to amend the bill could lead to an exodus of MPs from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

The Labour leader has ordered his party to vote in favour of triggering Article 50, yet many members of his top team represent areas which overwhelmingly voted Remain. Corbyn has already suffered two resignations from his frontbench over the issue with several others, including shadow Brexit secretary Clive Lewis, stating that they are ultimately likely to vote against. Business Insider revealed last week that those likely to defy the whip include opposition whip Thangam Debbonaire, who is partly in charge of ensuring her party’s MPs vote in favour.

If the Bill is passed by MPs then it will then be referred to the House of Lords where it could face further amendment. The government ultimately hopes to have it passed by March 7, well in advance of their self-imposed deadline for triggering Article 50 or March 31.

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