Today, the government published a very short two clause Brexit bill, paving the way for the UK’s formal exit from the European Union.
At 133 words, it is one of the shortest bills on record, but longer than the 70-word Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, which allowed women to sit in parliament.
The Brexit bill, formally referred to as the European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Bill was read out for the first time in front of MPs in the House of Commons:
cheering and paper-waving as David Davis presents the government’s Article 50 bill to Parliament pic.twitter.com/syvwlSlqJi
— Esther Webber (@estwebber) 26 January 2017
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Some 75 percent of MPs are opposed to Brexit, according to constitutional expert Vernon Bernard Bogdanor.
“There are only two parties that favour Brexit in Parliament – the DUP with eight MPs and UKIP with one MP. Nine MPs out of 650 – now that’s not very representative of the country,” he told BBC2’s Daily Politics this afternoon.
He added that the government deliberately framed the bill “very tightly hoping amendments will be ruled out of order.”
Timetable for the Brexit bill
26 January (today)
Day 1 – Tuesday, 31 January
Day 2 – Wednesday, 1 February
Day 1 – Monday, 6 February
Day 2 – Tuesday, 7 February
Day 3 – Wednesday, 8 February
Report stage and third reading:
Wednesday, 8 February.
Reaction from Parliament
Labour MP Angela Eagle said she was “astonished” at the timeline outlined by the government.
Fellow Labour MP Ben Bradshaw agreed, describing the process as “totally unacceptable”.
He encouraged every MP who “cares about parliamentary democracy” to vote against the bill which is a “contempt of parliament.”
Asked repeatedly about the issue in Brexit questions in the Commons, Mr Davis said:
“The prime minister has made it plain that she has tried already to get agreement amongst all of the member states. Most of them agree, but one or two don’t. And we have to keep pressing, as we will, to resolve this as quickly as possible. But I hope that EU nationals currently here will take heart from what we are saying, what our intention is – to give them the guarantees that will also apply to British citizens abroad.”
Brexit minister Lord Bridges of Headley, declined to provide an estimate of the cost of the government’s Article 50 appeal to the Supreme Court, but said that figures would be “published in due course”.
Lord Newby, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords accused the government of bypassing the parliamentary process, arguing that although MPs will get a vote on the triggering of Article 50, they will have “no significant role in influencing the negotiations themselves.”
Lord Bridges denied this was the case. He said that there will be “ample opportunity to scrutinise the negotiations as they proceed”.
SNP MP Alex Salmond, SNP MP and former first minister of Scotland said that his party will oppose the bill, which he referred to as a “disgraceful programme motion.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Labour MPs will face a three-line whip, compelling them to vote in favor of the bill allowing the government to trigger Article 50, the official EU exit clause.
The debate on the second reading of the European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Bill at the end of January is expected to go on until late at night.
What are people saying on Twitter?
Brexit supporters applauded the bill:
— Stewart Jackson MP (@Stewart4Pboro) 26 January 2017
BREAKING | The Brexit bill has now been published. An important step towards national independence! pic.twitter.com/beaN7JAkcY
— LEAVE.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) 26 January 2017
However others expressed anger at the government’s for producing such a short bill, and avoiding a sufficiently high level of parliamentary scrutiny.
Some also launched an attack on Corbyn for imposing a three-line whip on MPs who would have otherwise voted to block the bill.
Imposing a three-line whip on Article 50 vote is appalling. Regardless of anything else, many MPs had constituencies which voted Remain.
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) 26 January 2017
“Disgraceful!” shout some Labour MPs as Commons leader David Lidington says committee stage of article 50 trigger bill will take three days
— Richard Wheeler (@richard_kaputt) 26 January 2017
Angela Eagle says a two-day second reading debate for the Article 50 Bill isn’t enough. “It’s a two-clause Bill!” says David Lidington
— Patrick Kidd (@patrick_kidd) 26 January 2017
— Simon Dedman (@SiDedman) 26 January 2017
— Peter Hain (@PeterHain) 25 January 2017
— Dingledoodie (@Dingledoodie) 26 January 2017
The govt showing its contempt for Parliament by posting an insultingly short bill, providing inadequate time & before a white paper#Brexit
— Nick Reeves – 48% (@nickreeves9876) 26 January 2017