The Guardian – Clive Lewis, the MP for Norwich South, has resigned from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as the government’s Brexit bill was passed overwhelmingly by MPs, completing its passage through the House of Commons without a single amendment.
The historic bill was passed overwhelmingly, by 494 votes to 122, and will now pass to the House of Lords, where Labour and Liberal Democrat peers will press for concessions on key issues including the status of European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom.
But its emphatic passage through the Commons means that Theresa May appears to be on track to meet her self-imposed deadline of triggering article 50 – and starting the formal process to quit the EU – by the end of March.
A potential Conservative rebellion melted away, as the government made a series of tactical concessions to smooth the passage of the bill, including publishing a white paper setting out its negotiating priorities, and promising that MPs will be allowed to vote on the exit deal before their counterparts in the European parliament.
The bill’s passage through the Commons was hailed by Brexit supporters. Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who campaigned for decades for an EU referendum, said: “I never thought I’d see the day where the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted for Britain to leave the European Union.”
Brexit secretary David Davis said: “We’ve seen a historic vote tonight – a big majority for getting on with negotiating our exit from the EU and a strong, new partnership with its member states.”
Lewis was one of 52 Labour MPs who rebelled against Corbyn’s three-line whip to vote against the legislation, which authorises the government to trigger article 50 – the formal process for exiting the EU.
With his resignation as shadow business secretary, Lewis became the fourth shadow cabinet member to resign rather than vote in favour, the Labour MP Jo Stevens having resigned before the first vote on the bill took place.
Lewis represents Norwich South, a constituency that voted strongly to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum, and had been openly agonising about whether he could bring himself to support the legislation.
“When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich,” Lewis said. “I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.
“It is therefore with a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet.”