Dismay at easy passage of bill

Posted By: February 11, 2017

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Friday, February 10, 2017

Anyone with a sense of concern for the UK’s future relationship with the Europe Union and the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will feel only dismay at the easy passage of the bill to start the process of withdrawal.

The bill giving Theresa May the authority to begin exit talks under Article 50 of the EU treaties, was passed on Wednesday without a single amendment in the Commons by 494 votes to 122, a majority of 372.

Given that severing the link with the EU is the most momentous political decision of recent times, with profound implications for the economy, jobs, trade and the free movement of people, it is deeply disappointing to see this bill making a relatively unfettered journey through the House of Commons.

Theresa May has had to make some procedural concessions to Remain supporters in her party, but it is the feeble performance of Labour that has made her job so much easier.

Jeremy Corbyn ordered a three line whip in support of the bill although 52 MPs rebelled on Wednesday night, showing this is a party still deeply divided under his leadership.

If ever there was a time for a strong and united opposition to hold the government to account and safeguard the interests of those who want a constructive arrangement with Europe, then this is it.

Unfortunately, Mr. Corbyn has proved ineffectual in his role and clearly is not regarded as a serious threat by the Tories.

The bill now moves to the House of Lords where hopefully the government will face greater scrutiny and pressure for change.

Former Northern Ireland secretary of state Lord Hain said he would vote against triggering Article 50 unless an amendment is accepted to prevent a land border between north and south.

There is no doubt this is a hugely significant issue for people on this island, and it is important that the British government is forced to take proper notice of this fact.