The Government has defeated the first opposition amendments to their flagship Brexit legislation.
Backed by Plaid Cymru and the SNP, the first proposed amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill would have forced Theresa May to win the consent of the UK’s devolved administrations before repealing EU legislation.
But, the amendment was defeated 318-52 as MPs continue their line-by-line scrutiny of the bill.
Later, on the first day of the bill’s committee stage in the House of Commons, the Government also comprehensively won a vote (318-68) on the bill’s provision for the 1972 European Communities Act to be repealed on exit day.
Nineteen Labour MPs voted against repealing the Act, which currently gives EU law supremacy over UK national law, in March 2019.
A new clause tabled by Labour former minister Chris Leslie, which would require ministers to produce a report on how EU law will be applied during a transition period, was defeated by 316 votes to 296.
An SNP amendment seeking to ensure courts “pay due regard” to any relevant decision of the European court when interpreting EU law after exit day was defeated by the same margin.
And a Labour amendment proposing the exit day must not be before the end of any transitional period agreed under Article 50 was defeated by 316 votes to 295
More than 400 amendments have been tabled to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which is designed to convert EU law into UK legislation by the end of March 2019.
The Government has been warned of potential rebellions during the bill’s lengthy committee stage, with Conservative backbenchers having raised concerns about the use of so-called “Henry VIII” powers.
On Tuesday, prominent Remain-supporting Tories also focused their anger on an amendment tabled by the Government itself, which would include an EU exit date of 11pm on 29 March, 2019 within the legislation.
Labour MP Frank Field has withdrawn his own amendment calling for an exit date of 30 March 2019, an hour later than the Government’s amendment, without a vote.
Ex-chancellor Ken Clarke – who was afforded rare applause in the House of Commons by Labour MPs at one point during Tuesday’s debate – branded the Government amendment “ridiculous and unnecessary”, adding: “It could be positively harmful to the national interest.”
Former attorney-general Dominic Grieve described the Government’s action as “mad” as he vowed to vote against the “unacceptable” proposal.
And Tory backbencher Anna Soubry could be heard calling her fellow Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin a “disgrace” as he told the House of Commons: “Any MPs who voted for Article 50 but then do not want to fix the date are open to the charge that they don’t want us to leave the EU.”
As MPs debated the EU Withdrawal Bill, the Prime Minister met with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Downing Street.
The SNP leader described her talks with Theresa May as “constructive and cordial” but repeated her view the EU Withdrawal Bill is unacceptable to the Scottish Government in its current form.
Both Scotland’s and Wales’ devolved governments have expressed fears the “power grab” legislation will return responsibilities from Brussels to London, rather than to their countries’ administrations.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We oppose Brexit but we understand withdrawal legislation is necessary, so we want to find agreement.
“But I also made clear what our bottom lines are on that bill.
“Discussions will continue and hopefully we can reach some points of agreement in the weeks to come.”
The First Minister also branded the Government’s exit date amendment, which won’t be voted on by MPs until next month at the earliest, as not “sensible”.
(c) Sky News 2017: Government defeats first amendments to EU Withdrawal Bill