Following a debate in the House of Commons yesterday, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year, and so begin the process of leaving the EU. MPs also voted in favour of Labour’s motion calling for the Government to publish its Brexit negotiating plan prior to Article 50 being triggered, and allowing Parliament to “properly scrutinise” the Government’s proposals for leaving the EU.
House of Commons’ decisions are not legally binding on ministers, meaning that MPs could technically vote against triggering Article 50 down the line. However the decision is nonetheless symbolic and politically significant, as it forced MPs to state their position, making it very difficult for them to reverse this position at a later stage. The vote has been heralded by Brexiteers as an “historic” moment, as it is the first time since that MPs have voted in favour of leaving the EU, agreeing to follow the result of the referendum result. During the debate former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke said Mrs May’s promise to reveal the Government’s negotiating plan was “extremely vague” and called for the plan to be set out in detail in a white paper, for publication prior to Article 50 being invoked. However, Brexit Secretary, David Davis, promised MPs that whilst the Government will set out its “strategic plans” for Brexit, it will not reveal anything that could “jeopardise our negotiating position”. Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary, said that he would hold the Government to account on its promise, saying a “late, vague plan” would not be good enough. Mr Starmer said he would measure the published plan against several tests, including whether it gives enough detail for MPs to scrutinise the Government’s approach.