Brexit: Ministers see off EU Withdrawal Bill challenges

  • Published
  • comments
House of Commons debateImage source, PA
Image caption,
MPs took part in Prime Minister's Questions before embarking on a second day of debate

The second day of debate in the Commons over the EU Withdrawal Bill has ended with the government winning every vote.

Amendments had been put forward by Labour regarding issues such as employment rights and environmental legislation after Brexit.

However, the government managed to win five votes during the course of the day - despite its majority falling as low as 12 at times.

The dates of six more debating days in the Commons will be confirmed later.

If passed, the withdrawal bill will bring existing EU law into UK law and allow the government to use so-called Henry VIII powers to change it without full parliamentary scrutiny.

The powers have been criticised by members on both sides of the House, and one of Labour's amendments called for full debates before changes to any EU laws.

Shadow Brexit minister Matthew Pennycook said the powers could be used to "chip away at rights, entitlements, protections and standards that the public enjoy and wish to retain".

Conservative former Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed with Mr Pennycook, saying that laws of "very considerable importance" to the public would be brought to the "lowest possible status" without full scrutiny.

But Ken Clarke was the only Tory MP to vote for the amendment and it was defeated by 311 votes to 299 - with nine DUP MPs and two former Tories sitting as independents voting with the government.

'Listening carefully'

Six more days of debates are required before completing the committee stage of the bill.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom is expected to confirm the dates later.

Solicitor general Robert Buckland said: "The Brexit process will in no way whatsoever be used to undermine or curtail the rights of workers that have been enshrined both in domestic law and in law by virtue of the EU."

He also hinted that concessions may be made at the next stage in the progress of the bill - the report stage - when it returns to Parliament.

During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May said the government was "listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill".