quarta-feira, 8 de fevereiro de 2017

UK MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit bill / The Guardian view on parliament and Brexit: MPs fail their first test / Clive Lewis quits shadow cabinet as Brexit bill passes with huge majority

UK MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit bill
The vote completes the passage through the House of Commons.

By CHARLIE COOPER 2/8/17, 10:24 PM CET Updated 2/8/17, 11:01 PM CET

LONDON — British MPs on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to authorize the government to trigger Article 50 — the formal notification of the country’s intention to leave the EU after 44 years of membership.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Article 50 bill, which she was forced to bring before parliament by a Supreme Court ruling last month, was backed by 494 MPs, with 122 voting against.

The vote completes the bill’s passage through the House of Commons. It will now go to the House of Lords and it’s expected to be ratified by early March, in time for May’s self-imposed deadline for triggering Article 50 by the end of that month.

“The Lords will face an overwhelming public call to be abolished if they now try and frustrate this bill — they must get on and deliver the will of the British people,” said a government official on condition of anonymity.

With the backing of the ruling Conservative party and the instruction from the Labour leadership that their MPs back the bill, the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion. However, 52 Labour MPs defied the party whip to vote against Article 50 — five more than rebelled on the bill’s second reading at an earlier stage of the parliamentary process last week.

The Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Wales’ Plaid Cymru, Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party, Green MP Caroline Lucas and lone Tory rebel Kenneth Clarke also voted against it.

“It would also be wrong to set unilateral demands before negotiations have even begun” — David Jones, Brexit minister
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was left damaged by the resignation of his highly-regarded Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis, who confirmed at the eleventh hour that he would not be following the party line.

Lewis, who represents the strongly Remain-supporting Norwich South constituency, said he could not “in all good conscience vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honor to represent, love and call home.”

After a marathon round of voting on amendments, MPs finally came to the bill itself at 8:15 p.m. As lawmakers made their way into the chamber, SNP MPs struck up a chorus of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy — the anthem of the European Union — until Deputy Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle instructed them to stop.

All amendments, laid by opposition parties in an attempt to steer the government’s negotiating strategy, were defeated. The Conservative leadership had instructed its MPs to vote down all amendments to give May a free hand in the negotiations and to enable the bill to pass without delay.

David Jones, the Brexit minister who led for the government during the parliamentary debate, insisted that the issues raised by the amendments could be debated at a later state in the Brexit process. “These amendments are not for this bill, instead they are for the many future debates that will take place,” he told MPs.

“Our intention, as set out in the white paper, is to leave the EU,” he said. “It would also be wrong to set unilateral demands before negotiations have even begun.”

An amendment seeking to guarantee the continued residency rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. was not backed by the government, despite the principle having widespread support across the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, 19 Labour MPs, including five members of Corbyn’s shadow frontbench team, joined with the Liberal Democrats to vote for an amendment calling for a second referendum to ratify the terms of the Brexit deal.

Labour MPs had been instructed to abstain on the vote and in total only 33 MPs backed it.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, who has sought to position his pro-EU party as the natural home for voters who backed Remain at the referendum, accused Labour of writing “a blank check” for May’s government.

“Labour tonight have lost the right to be called the official opposition,” he said. “History will judge them harshly for their failure to stand firm in defense of future generations of Britons who will suffer as a result.”


Charlie Cooper

  The Guardian view on parliament and Brexit: MPs fail their first test
The courts ruled that legislators must decide on Britain’s place in Europe. The Commons has not learned its lessons yet

Wednesday 8 February 2017 20.31 GMT

Last month, Gina Miller stood outside the supreme court and celebrated the judges’ confirmation that parliament must sit behind the wheel in the Brexit process, not the prime minister invoking the medieval royal prerogative. A little more than two weeks later, the House of Commons has decided that Theresa May is the driver after all. Ms Miller fought long and hard, and at great personal cost, to ensure that the Commons could assert its lawful sovereignty over the Brexit process. On that morning in January she invited them to use “their invaluable experience and expertise” to set Britain’s course. But as the European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill comfortably passed its third reading in the Commons she was entitled to ask herself whether her efforts have really been worth it after all.

The Guardian UK: Politics Weekly MPs back Brexit and Trump's travel ban – Politics Weekly podcast
Anushka Asthana is joined by Kate Andrews, Sonia Sodha and Owen Jones in a week where the government’s short Brexit bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle.
It is tempting to say that MPs have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. That is because in many respects they have. Faced with a bill that sets in motion the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, which is as profoundly mistaken a decision as any that the UK parliament has taken in the postwar era, MPs have essentially said that last year’s referendum is sovereign and that they are powerless to put their foot on the brake or choose a different route.

Too many on both sides of the Commons nonsensically deployed their experience and expertise to vote for a bill they admitted to not supporting. Too many MPs genuflected to a referendum decision that sets Britain against its neighbours and its own place in the world and puts the UK economy at hazard. It fell hardest for Labour, a pro-European party with many leave constituencies, where the EU dilemma is entangled with other issues about Labour’s future. It is a wrong decision because MPs have given far too little careful attention over the years to deciding the proper place, if any at all, of referendums in a representative democracy. The consequences of that have been painfully clear in the past two weeks.

Referendums are too often cuckoos in the nest of parliamentary sovereignty. But the passing of this bill is also wrong because this particular referendum made such a lamentable choice about the future of Britain. Britain should be part of Europe. That has not changed. However, the Brexit vote took parliament’s authority away, politically if not constitutionally, and not even Ms Miller’s heroic efforts have been able fully to restore that authority. Two thirds or more of MPs think that Brexit is the wrong course. But, as Wednesday night’s vote confirmed, too many of them felt compelled to go through the lobbies in support of a bill that they believe, correctly in our view, will damage Britain. It is not they as individuals who have been found wanting. It is parliament.

Yet not all is lost. Three days of the committee stage of the bill this week, as well as the brief third reading debate, have exposed big Brexit-related issues on which the majority of MPs seek outcomes that Mrs May would have been reluctant to concede or contemplate in the absence of parliamentary pressure. In particular, Mrs May has been forced to make procedural concessions about parliament’s later role in the process. Whether these concessions are real or a con will depend on how MPs act when the time comes. MPs have also made it clear that they expect the existing rights of EU citizens to live in the UK to be an inalienable part of any final deal. Other markers have also been laid down. These do not entirely compensate for the original wrong decision on Brexit or the second reading of the bill last week. But they mean the forces of openness and internationalism live to fight another day. And fight they must.

The most disturbing aspect of an admittedly difficult set of decisions for MPs and parties over the past two weeks has been the caution with which parliament’s “soft Brexit” majority has behaved. That must change. Most opposition MPs and a large minority of Conservative MPs favour a soft as opposed to a hard Brexit. They must surely also want a good deal rather than either a bad deal or no deal at all. Yet cross-party cooperation has been too hesitant. Perhaps the vituperation of the rightwing press against “remoaners” has frightened too many in both main parties. Perhaps Tory liberals don’t want to fall out with Mrs May too soon. Whatever the truth, pro-European MPs in all parties need to relearn the practicalities of using their power as effectively as the Eurosceptics learned to use theirs long ago. There will be plenty more opportunities. They must be taken.

Clive Lewis quits shadow cabinet as Brexit bill passes with huge majority
Labour’s business spokesman among 52 Labour MPs to defy party’s three-line whip, but bill to trigger article 50 clears Commons with majority of 372

Heather Stewart and Anushka Asthana
Thursday 9 February 2017 00.34 GMT First published on Wednesday 8 February 2017 20.12 GMT

Clive Lewis, the MP for Norwich South, has resigned from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as the government’s Brexit bill was passed overwhelmingly by MPs, completing its passage through the House of Commons without a single amendment.

The historic bill was passed overwhelmingly, by 494 votes to 122, and will now pass to the House of Lords, where Labour and Liberal Democrat peers will press for concessions on key issues including the status of European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom.

But its emphatic passage through the Commons means that Theresa May appears to be on track to meet her self-imposed deadline of triggering article 50 – and starting the formal process to quit the EU – by the end of March.

A potential Conservative rebellion melted away, as the government made a series of tactical concessions to smooth the passage of the bill, including publishing a white paper setting out its negotiating priorities, and promising that MPs will be allowed to vote on the exit deal before their counterparts in the European parliament.

The bill’s passage through the Commons was hailed by Brexit supporters. Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who campaigned for decades for an EU referendum, said: “I never thought I’d see the day where the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted for Britain to leave the European Union.”

Brexit secretary David Davis said: “We’ve seen a historic vote tonight – a big majority for getting on with negotiating our exit from the EU and a strong, new partnership with its member states.”

Lewis was one of 52 Labour MPs who rebelled against Corbyn’s three-line whip to vote against the legislation, which authorises the government to trigger article 50 – the formal process for exiting the EU.

With his resignation as shadow business secretary, Lewis became the fourth shadow cabinet member to resign rather than vote in favour, the Labour MP Jo Stevens having resigned before the first vote on the bill took place.

Lewis represents Norwich South, a constituency that voted strongly to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum, and had been openly agonising about whether he could bring himself to support the legislation.

“When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich,” Lewis said. “I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.

“It is therefore with a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet.”

After stepping down Lewis thanked his supporters in a tweet referencing the Kobayashi Maru test from Star Trek, in which cadets are given a no-win scenario in order to test their strength of character.

Widely seen as a rising star on the left of the party, Lewis voted for the bill at its second reading of the bill last week; but made it clear that if Labour failed to amend the legislation he could not do so again. When the last potential amendment failed on Wednesday night, Labour issued a statement saying he had stepped down.

The Guardian UK: Politics Weekly MPs back Brexit and Trump's travel ban – Politics Weekly podcast
Anushka Asthana is joined by Kate Andrews, Sonia Sodha and Owen Jones in a week where the government’s short Brexit bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle.
Some see him as a potential leadership candidate, who could act as a bridge between the Corbynite wing of the party, and the so-called soft left. But in the corridors MPs were being quite disparaging about what some called his “flip flopping” in recent days about whether he could back the bill.

As Lewis stood outside the lobbies one Tory MP asked if he’d put a suit on especially for the occasion given the heavy focus on his decision.

Corbyn said: “I would like to thank Clive for his work in the shadow cabinet, which has underlined what an asset he is to the Labour party and our movement.

“I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted remain have in relation to the European Union withdrawal bill. MPs have a duty to represent their constituents as well as their party. However, the Labour party respects the outcome of the EU referendum, so we have asked all Labour MPs to vote for the bill at its third reading.”

Corbyn will have been relieved that the rebellion on his benches was only modestly larger than last week, at the bill’s second reading, when 47 MPs defied the party line, and there were three resignations from the front bench, including two shadow cabinet ministers, Dawn Butler and Rachael Maskell.

Diane Abbott, the Hackney North MP who was absent from last week’s second reading of the bill, citing a migraine, voted in favour of the bill, despite speculation that she was concerned about the reaction of her pro-remain constituents.

In her official response to the vote she said that while she accepted the result of the referendum, “this does not mean that we have to accept Brexit in the haphazard way in which it is being handed to us”.

Abbott said: “This passage of this bill has been a challenge for Labour. Our MPs represent the top six most passionately pro-leave constituencies, and the six most passionately pro-remain constituencies ... I voted for the bill as a loyal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and a loyal member of the shadow cabinet.”

Abbott later said Brexit was not the leftwing idea imagined by Labour stalwart Tony Benn, but an “ugly” state of affairs more akin to the politics of US president Donald Trump.

She told BBC Newsnight: “I respect the result of the referendum and no-one wanted to thwart it in a perverse kind of way. But we need to be clear, this is not a Tony Benn Brexit, this is Donald Trump Brexit, and it’s got a very ugly side.”

Corbyn will now have to embark on a reshuffle, and must also decide how to treat frontbenchers outside the shadow cabinet, including three of his own whips, who rebelled. Labour sources said decisions would be made “in the next few days”.

MPs had earlier rejected a series of potential amendments to the legislation, many of them backed by Labour, on issues including tax havens, workers’ rights and the future of EU citizens living in the UK, repeatedly filing in and out of the Commons chamber to hold nine votes in quick succession.

A Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a referendum on the terms of Britain’s new relationship with the EU received the backing of just 33 MPs, 19 of them Labour: that included former leadership contender Owen Smith, and frontbenchers Catherine West and Daniel Zeichner.

Corbyn will now have to decide what to do about frontbenchers who refused to toe the line and voted against the bill for a second time, including three party whips, Thangam Debbonnaire, Jeff Smith and Vicky Foxcroft.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has repeatedly insisted the party must try to speak for both leavers and remainers, rather than trying to block Brexit.

Separately, Theresa May used an interview in the New Statesman to say that she hopes Labour voters will consider backing the Conservatives, as they focus on domestic reforms, as well as pressing ahead with Brexit.

“I hope there are Labour voters out there who will now look at us afresh and say, ‘Labour hasn’t responded to our concerns, it hasn’t recognised what matters to us, but the Conservatives have seen that and are responding to it.’ I want our greater prosperity not to be confined to particular groups of people or a single part of the country.”

May also rejected the claims of George Osborne, the former chancellor, who argued in the House of Commons last week that the government had failed to put the economy first by deciding to abandon single market membership and prioritise control of immigration.

“What we say is: what is the outcome that we want to achieve? And it is possible to achieve an outcome which is both a good result for the economy and is a good result for people who want us to control immigration – to be able to set our own rules on the immigration of people coming from the European Union,” she said. “It is perfectly possible to find an arrangement and a partnership with the EU which does that.”

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