The EU Withdrawal Bill cleared the Commons this evening and will progress to the House of Lords after MPs voted to give it a third reading by 324 votes to 295.
But as the debate over the Government’s key Brexit legislation reached its final hours, Labour politicians put forward a series of new clauses that were narrowly defeated.
Labour MP Ian Murray’s put forward an amendment,which sought to ensure Parliament formally considered the effect of losing access to the EU single market and customs union.
But when it came to the vote, that was defeated by 320 votes to 301 – a majority of 19.
A further clause requiring the Government to carry out an assessment and prepare new legislation to prevent loss of environmental protections post-Brexit was defeated by an even slimmer margin of 17 – 318 votes to 301.
And a request by Remainer Chuka Umunna for the Government to publish its legal advice on revoking Article 50 also slumped to defeat by 322 votes to 298.
But in a blow to Mr Corbyn, around 48 of his own MPs rebelled on a cross-party amendment that would have guaranteed continued membership of the single market and customs union before ministers can implement any withdrawal agreement.
That was defeated by a whopping 322 votes to 99 – a 223 majority.
Kenneth Clarke, the only Tory to back that amendment, told MPs during the debate: “On whatever basis we come out, there are bound to be adverse effects on the British economy if we create new barriers between ourselves and the biggest free market in the world.”
The Brexit Bill was being debated in the Commons
“If in fact we proceed to a deal in which we withdraw then we’ll find ourselves – to some degree or another – inevitably taking an economic blow and probably making future generations less prosperous than they would otherwise have been.”
And serial Tory rebel Anna Soubry told ministers the Government had “made a mistake” in ruling out membership of the single market.
She said: “Perhaps it could very well be argued that the Government made a mistake in rushing to say no to the customs union, no to the single market without fully understanding the implications.
“Not just on our economy but also how it has meant that a whole range of options has now been taken off the table by the United Kingdom Government when the European Union has made it very clear all options as far as they are concerned remain on the table.”
Chuka Umunna’s clause was defeated
Labour MP Hilary Benn, who chairs the Committee on Exiting the European Union, told MPs the Government’s Brexit red lines were an “error”.
He said: “This is probably going to be the first negotiation in human history in which a government has gone into the negotiation knowing that it will come out with a worse deal than the one that we currently enjoy and the reasons for that is the red lines that it has set for itself.
“Doesn’t that demonstrate what a profound error it has been, especially when we know now that those decisions on those red lines were taken apparently with no assessment at all of the economic impact.”
But Brexit minister Steve Baker gave reassurances that any deal struck with the EU would not be ratified without the consent of both Houses of Parliament.
Ken Clarke spoke out again against Brexit
Mr Baker, concluding a debate over possible amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, said: “Both Houses will have meaningful votes on whether to accept the agreement and it is my expectation that we would not ratify before that primary legislation has gone through.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis opened the debate on the Bill’s third reading, the final stage of scrutiny by MPs before it clears the Commons.
“This Bill is essential for preparing the country for the historic milestone of withdrawing from the European Union,” said Mr Davis.
“It ensures that on day one we’ll have a statute book that works, delivering the smooth and orderly exit desired by people and businesses across the United Kingdom, and being delivered by this Government.”
Mary Creagh’s amendment was also defeated
He said it was a complex piece of legislation that MPs had spent more than 80 hours discussing, including more than 500 amendments and new clauses.
But Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “This Bill has never been fit for purpose: it was not fit for purpose when it started its life last year and after 64 hours at committee and 10 hours at report it is still not fit for purpose.”
He said Labour had “repeatedly” pointed out “six serious defects in the Bill”, and said: “But we have been talking to a brick wall.
“The Government has not accepted any of the points that the opposition have made: they have conceded some ground on their own side – they have not taken seriously the propositions and the arguments that we have put forward on this side and that is unusual in my experience of dealing with Bills.
“They have simply, robotically voted down all opposition amendments.”