What a momentous day – on several counts! Not only is today BrexitCentral’s first birthday, but we wake up to the news that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill secured its Second Reading shortly after midnight by a majority of 36.
It’s hard to believe that it was only one year ago that I wrote my first BrexitCentral daily briefing. It’s been a momentous twelve months and I’m delighted to have made a reality – with the help of an incredibly talented team – the vision that our Editor-at-Large, Matthew Elliott, had for BrexitCentral when he announced its founding last summer after the referendum.
Matthew has written for us today to reflect on the last year and to thank a lot of different people – and I wholeheartedly echo his sentiments, in particular in thanking you, our loyal readers, for all your support and encouragement. Click here to read his piece.
Back to today’s news and it was at 12.30am, after two full days of debate, that MPs gave the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill a Second Reading. Click here to watch our video highlights from the best speeches, while you can see how every single MP voted (or not as the case may be) by clicking here for my analysis of the division list.
No Conservative opposed the Bill (although Ken Clarke was the sole Tory to vote against the programme motion which timetables the committee stage), but Labour MPs split three different ways: while 240 backed Jeremy Corbyn’s instructions to oppose the Bill, 7 trooped through the division lobby with the Government to back the Bill, and a further 15 did not vote at all. Among those abstaining was Caroline Flint, who gave an especially powerful speech to explain her position and condemn the line taken by her party’s leadership.
Theresa May hailed last night’s vote as “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”. For Labour, Sir Keir Starmer declared the Bill “an affront to parliamentary democracy” and claimed that “it will make the Brexit process more uncertain, and lead to division and chaos when we need unity and clarity”.
So with the vital first parliamentary hurdle having now been passed, MPs will scrutinise the Bill at committee stage on the floor of the House of Commons when Parliament returns after the party conference season.
Today will see the publication of the latest future partnership paper from the Government covering the “deep security partnership” that ministers envisage with the EU after Brexit. David Davis notes that the UK “will continue to face shared threats to our security, our shared values and our way of life” and that it is therefore “in our mutual interest to work closely with the EU and its member states to challenge terrorism and extremism, illegal migration, cyber-crime, and conventional state-based military aggression”. Expect publication of the document around lunchtime.
Also out today is the Henry Jackson Society‘s Audit of Geopolitical Capability which confirms the UK’s status as the most important global power in Europe. David Scullion reports on the findings here in advance of the report’s author, James Rogers, writing for us later today.
Finally on the site today, Steven Woolfe MEP responds with incredulity to Tony Blair’s weekend intervention on immigration. He accuses the former Prime Minister of hypocrisy and insincerity, taking him to task over his claim that we could control EU migration into the UK without Brexit while remaining members of the EU. Click here to read his piece.