Conservative MPs have warned Theresa May that their support for her government’s Brexit legislation is not unconditional, as they demanded significant changes to the EU withdrawal bill within minutes of backing it.
Parliament’s post-midnight vote resulted in the prime minister facing no rebellion from within her party, as the government secured a victory of 326 to 290.
The result handed May an effective “Brexit majority” of 36 after seven Labour MPs – Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer – defied their own party whip to support the government, arguing that the referendum demanded the legislation be passed.
The prime minister called it a “historic decision to back the will of the British people” and said the vote would give clarity and certainty through the Brexit process.
“Although there is more to do, this decision means we can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation,” she said.
However, senior Tory backbenchers were among those racing to lay down critical amendments immediately after the vote, as a big queue formed in which MPs jostled to table their suggestions first.
Significantly, the former attorney general Dominic Grieve teamed up with his Tory colleague John Penrose, to warn against a power grab by ministers through so-called Henry VIII powers.
Their calls for change came alongside a series of amendments from MPs from across the House of Commons, including Brexit-supporting Labour politicians and the opposition frontbenches.
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who led a vote against the bill because he argued it was so weak, called it a “deeply disappointing result”.