Parliament has tonight voted resoundingly in favour of triggering Article 50(2) of the Lisbon Treaty which would grant the government the authority and the mandate to begin the formal process of our departure of the European Union.
MPs voted in favour of passing the motion by a majority of 384, which was also backed by the Labour leadership. The final vote count was 498 votes to 114.
As expected, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal (not so) Democrats opposed the bill, while 47 Labour MPs also rebelled against the party line. The only Tory to go against the three-line whip was ex-chancellor Ken Clarke who has been a life-long advocate for political integration in Europe.
The bill will now be passed to a committee stage where there could be more scope for MPs to add amendments. Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to publish a white paper tomorrow which will set out her plans for the negotiations relating to our departure. She hopes this will suppress the possibility of a small back-bench rebellion from among her own party.
Jeremy Corbyn now faces another shadow cabinet reshuffle as 12 serving frontbenchers rebelled (included three members of the Labour whip).
Speaking in response to the vote, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said
“I’ve just voted three times in the House of Commons for an absolutely momentous thing – to give our Prime Minister the right to trigger Article 50 and Britain to begin the path out of the EU. Don’t forget we may be leaving the EU treaties but we are not leaving Europe.
“We are going to be making an amazingly positive contribution to our continent as we always have done and always will. But we are now able to forge a new identity with new free trade deals as global Britain.”
Once Article 50 is triggered, talks with the EU are expected to last up to two years, with the UK predicted to leave the autocratic political union in 2019, signalling one of the most significant political events in British history.