LONDON — Britain’s departure from the European Union has moved a step closer after members of Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit.
Parliament voted by 498 to 114 to progress the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which if ultimately passed, will give Prime Minister Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50.
An attempt by the SNP to block voting on the bill failed after just 100 MPs supported it to 336 against.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suffered a major rebellion however, with almost 50 of his own MPs defying his three-line-whip to back the bill and dozens more voting against a programme motion to extend debate on it.
Just one Conservative MP, veteran Europhile Ken Clarke, voted against the bill.
Earlier, two members of Corbyn’s shadow frontbench resigned due to their opposition to the bill with several more set to ultimately resign.
The bill was put forward by May’s government after they lost a Supreme Court case earlier this month on whether she had the power to trigger a breakaway from the EU without consulting Parliament.
The bill will now 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 that would shape May’s negotiating strategy on matters including the single market and workers’ rights.
If the bill is passed by MPs, it will 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.
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 that overwhelmingly voted Remain in last year’s referendum on whether Britain would leave the EU. Corbyn has already suffered dour resignation 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.