Party Divisions over Brexit

The bill to trigger Article 50 was voted through the Commons at second reading. The bill was supported by all Conservative MPs (except Ken Clarke) and opposed by all SNP MPs. However, the other parties were divided on the matter.

Liberal Democrats – 2 of their 9 MPs supported the bill

Labour – Jeremy Corbyn had imposed a three line whip on the party, since he is keen that Labour is not seen to frustrate the will of the people. However, 47 MPs chose to defy Corbyn (a fifth of the Parliamentary Labour Party). Rachel Maskell and Dawn Butler stood down from the shadow Cabinet, and Tulip Siddiq from a junior frontbench role. Embarrassingly, three of Corbyn’s whips also defied the three line whip. This highlights severe divisions in the Labour Party (useful for Unit 1 Political Parties).

However, this does not mean the Conservatives are united on the issue of Brexit. Whilst they may have united to pass this bill at second reading, future divisions are extremely likely. In fact, George Osborne hinted at as much when his speech warned that May appeared to not be prioritising the economy. More divisions are likely to come …

This issue can also be useful for Unit 2 Parliament – one of the functions of an MP is representation of their constituents. Many of those that voted against the bill represent constituencies that voted ‘Remain’ in the referendum, and therefore they were able to claim to be fulfilling the wishes of their electorate. Certainly this was the case with Ken Clarke (as above mentioned) and the only Green MP, Caroline Lucas. In fact, only 9 of the 114 MPs who voted against the bill came from ‘Leave’ constituencies, but does this mean that they have not effectively carried out their function to represent? Of course, there are many that voted in favour of the bill who came from ‘Remain’ voting constituencies too…

Further reading:




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