Article 50 Bill Published, Will Be Fast-Tracked Through Parliament


The government has published its Bill to trigger Article 50 and leave the European Union (EU), in line with a ruling by the Supreme Court this week.

Introducing the Bill to the House of Commons for its first reading, David Davis, the secretary for exiting the EU, said he trusted parliament “will respect the decision taken by the British people and pass the legislation quickly”.

He added: “The British people have made the decision to leave the EU and this government is determined to get on with the job of delivering it,” The Guardian has reported.

Shortly before publication of the Bill, David Lidington, the leader of the Commons, told MPs they would have just five days in which to scrutinise and vote on the legislation.

The first reading is purely ceremonial; MPs first have a chance to debate the content at its second reading, timetabled for Tuesday 31 January, with the conclusion on Wednesday 1 February.

The Bill will then be considered in Committee on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 February, concluding in Committee on Wednesday 8 February when the remaining stages will take place, according to the Parliament website.

The short text of the Bill is likely designed to prevent obfuscation via the introduction of dozens of amendments which would otherwise hold up proceedings and delay Brexit. Following the Supreme Court decision, the Scottish National Party vowed to introduce 50 amendments, while the Liberal Democrats have promised to vote against it unless their demands for a second referendum are met.

Some Labour MPs have reacted angrily to the fast-tracked timetable; Ben Bradshaw said restricting debate to three days was “a disgrace”, while David Lammy said the timetable “shows contempt for parliamentary sovereignty” as the Bill was the “most important decision taken for generations”.

But Lidington said the anger was “synthetic rage” as the Bill was merely “a two-clause bill of which a single clause is a substantive one, which is in entirely to give authority to the prime minister to trigger an article 50 process and begin a negotiation.”

Knocking back speculation that Labour MPs may get a free vote, or a waiver on a whipped vote, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that his MPs will be expected to support the Bill.

“It will be a clear decision that we want all of our MPs to support the article 50 vote when it comes up next week,” he told Sky News, adding: “It’s clearly a three-line whip. It is a vote on the article 50 … We will put out a statement today to our members that we want them to vote for article 50.”

Tulip Siddiq, shadow minister for early years, has already said she will resign from the front bench, while Clive Lewis, Cat Smith, Dawn Butler, and Jo Stevens are rumoured to be considering the same. As many as 60 Labour MPs may rebel and vote against it.

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