Parliaments

Brexit bill: Highlights from Parliament

Theresa May in the House of Lords
Image caption The bill was first discussed in the Lords on 24 February - and Theresa May found time to listen to the debate

The government faced the final hurdle on the Brexit bill this week, as MPs voted on the amendments put forward by the Lords the week before.

The two amendments - on securing EU citizens' rights in the UK and giving Parliament a "meaningful vote" on any deal - were supported by the opposition, but it wasn't enough to block the government's pleas for an unamended bill.

There was a chance that, with their amendments defeated in the Commons, the Lords would reiterate their position when the bill returned to the House, but peers decided to back down, with many Labour peers abstaining from the vote.

The House of Commons had considered their recommendations and peers decided to respect their decision without a fight.

In doing so, the bill received Royal Assent on Thursday, allowing the government to trigger Article 50 before the end of the month as planned.

Here are a few of the more notable moments from this week's debate:

David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Image copyright HoC

"First, the bill was brought forward to implement the referendum result, respect the Supreme Court judgment, and nothing else. Secondly, these amendments are unnecessary as the government have already made firm commitments with regard to both of the two issues, and we will deliver on those commitments. Thirdly, these amendments will undermine the government's position in negotiations to get the best deal for Britain, and that cannot be in the national interest."

Sir Keir Starmer, shadow secretary of state for Exiting the European Union

"These are simple amendments that would improve the Article 50 process. They have obtained cross-party support and large majorities in the Lords, they are the right amendments on vitally important issues, and the obsession with the idea of a clean, unamended bill should not triumph over decency and principle."

Stephen Gethins, SNP Europe spokesperson

"If we pass the bill today, we will be passing this government a blank cheque on one of the most crucial issues that this Parliament has ever discussed, an issue that will have an impact on each and every one of us and each and every one of our constituents."

Anna Soubry, Conservative

Image copyright HOC

"Everyone in Europe knows how divided our nation is. They know about the deliberations in this place and in the other place. They also know that, of those who voted, only 52% voted for us to leave the European Union. I urge the government, for the sake of bringing unity not only to our party but to the country at large, to allow Parliament's sovereignty to reign and, in the event of no deal, to allow us to have a vote and a say."

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Europe spokesperson

"Stubbornness can be a sign of suspicion and weakness, not strength; rejecting the rightful, conventional role of the House of Commons and the other place to apply democratic accountability to the actions and decisions of the Executive can be a sign of weakness, not strength; and this specious argument that condemns the lack of democratic accountability in Brussels while undermining it here, in the mother of all Parliaments, is a sleight of hand that should not be lightly forgotten."

Hilary Benn, Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee

Image copyright HoC

"There is a terrible irony here. We are hearing the voices of those who, in the course of the referendum, used the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty as one of their principal arguments for voting to leave the EU, but whose enthusiasm for that sovereignty disappears in a puff of smoke when the House is asked to put that sovereignty on the statute book."

Sir Bill Cash, Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee

"We cannot tie the prime minister's hands. It is inconceivable that we would legislate, make that judicially reviewable and, at the same time, pass amendments the effect of which would be to introduce a Committee of Parliament that would decide on questions that have to be decided on by the government. Our constitution operates by parliamentary government, not by Committee of Parliament, otherwise we would go back to the 17th Century."

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative

"My point tonight is that, whatever the realities of what people want, neither amendment satisfies the requirement to protect EU nationals or to give this Parliament a meaningful vote without damaging the prospects for the government's negotiations."

Lord Bridges of Headley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Exiting the European Union

"Given that the other place has done as we asked and thought again, and decided to reject the amendment by a majority of 48, I argue with respect that this evening is not the time nor the place to return to the fray and insert terms and conditions to our negotiating position."

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Media captionLabour and Lib Dem peers argue on overturning MPs' vote on bill triggering Article 50

Lord Oates, Liberal Democrat

"Many people will be watching us tonight: we cannot please them all, but we can show them that no matter what the pressures from the media or the threats from the government may be, we are prepared to do what we know to be the right thing. I have no doubt that the right thing is to insist on this amendment to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and, in doing so, to uphold the honour and integrity of this country."

Archbishop of York

Image copyright HoL

"[EU citizens] are being used as a bargaining chip, which is very hurtful to me and others."

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, shadow spokesperson for Exiting the EU

"I will take no lessons from the Liberal Democrats, who confessed to me outside the Chamber that this appeals to their core vote and they are piling on members because of it. So we are here to move a motion to help them gain members."

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, UKIP

"How do they justify extolling the supremacy of Parliament - the House of Commons and your Lordships' House - and wanting Parliament to have the last word on the terms of our leaving the EU, when for the past 43 years they have supported our EU membership and still do so?"

Baroness Smith of Basildon, shadow leader of the House of Lords

Image copyright HoL

"I have always said that in this House we respect the primacy of the other place. We said that there should be no extended ping-pong but that we would listen to what the Commons had to say. If the noble Lord [referring Lord Oates, Lib Dem] really believes that by voting for this motion tonight he will change the mind of the other place, then he can go ahead but do not give false hope to people who rely on this House to make a point to get the other side to think again."