May facing titanic Brexit bill battle as scores of amendments are tabled
Theresa May is facing a titanic battle over her flagship Brexit bill, after scores of amendments were tabled within hours of it passing its first parliamentary hurdle.
A total of 157 amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, covering 59 pages, were published, including many from senior Conservative europhiles.
The bill cleared its second reading in the House of Commons by a margin of 36 in the early hours of Tuesday, after a mooted rebellion by Remain-backing Tories failed to materialise and seven Labour MPs rebelled against Jeremy Corbyn to vote with the government.
But the raft of changes proposed by Tories including former ministers Kenneth Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry, serves notice on the prime minister that she faces a rough ride in the remaining stages of the Bill's passage through Parliament.
MPs have approved a timetable guaranteeing 64 hours of debate in the following stage, when the Bill will be scrutinised line by line and votes taken on proposed amendments.
But Britain's justice secretary David Lidington said the government was "willing to consider" giving more time if there is "good reason".
The Bill will repeal the 1972 act taking Britain into the European Economic Community and transpose relevant EU law on to the UK statute book to ensure there are no gaps in legislation at the point of Brexit.
Labour has tabled a raft of amendments designed to curb the government's use of so-called Henry VIII powers that allow reforms to be passed with little parliamentary scrutiny.
It also wants to secure protections on human rights and environmental standards.
The Bill will transpose relevant EU law on to the UK statute book to ensure there are no gaps in legislation at the point of Brexit.
The vote allowing it to move on to the next stage in Parliament passed by a comfortable majority of 36, which included all 10 of the DUP MPs that are propping up the minority government.
No Conservatives opposed the move but five, as well as two Tories acting as tellers, did not walk through the voting lobbies.
Mrs May hailed the vote declaring: "Earlier this morning Parliament took a historic decision to back the will of the British people and vote for a Bill which gives certainty and clarity ahead of our withdrawal from the European Union."
Labour said the result was "deeply disappointing" and the Liberal Democrats described it as "a dark day for the mother of parliaments".
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: "This Bill is an affront to parliamentary democracy and a naked power grab by government ministers.
"It leaves rights unprotected, it silences Parliament on key decisions and undermines the devolution settlement.
"Labour will seek to amend and remove the worst aspects from the Bill as it passes through Parliament.
"But the flaws are so fundamental it's hard to see how this Bill could ever be made fit for purpose."
Tom Brake, Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, said MPs who backed the Bill should feel "ashamed" and attacked Labour rebels who backed the government.
"This is a dark day for the mother of parliaments," he said.
"Labour rebels have handed the government sweeping anti-democratic powers.
"A significant number walked hand in hand with the Tories and have given the government extreme powers not seen since the Middle Ages."
Mrs May's official spokesman said: "We will look at all the amendments and consider them in the usual way.
"The prime minister has said she is going to listen to the concerns of her colleagues."