Brexit Bill: Broken promises and uncertain futures

MPs voted overwhelmingly to allow the government to trigger Article 50 last night.

The draft Brexit bill was given the go ahead by MPs who voted 494 to 122. The only thing now standing in Prime Minister Theresa May’s way of pushing the exit button by the end of March is the House of Lords, who have also been warned not to block the legislation.

Last June 17.4m people voted to leave the EU in a historic referendum and there has been much discussion and even legal disputes on how this can be successfully achieved.

Speaking to the BBC after the vote Brexit Secretary David Davis said: "It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country."

The path to Brexit has been extremely bumpy and at times ugly. The Vote Leave campaign was widely criticized for claims made throughout their campaign, none more so than the promise that £350m extra that is currently sent to the EU would go to the NHS if we left.

This is now topic of conversation once again after last nights’ vote.

Before the final vote on the Brexit bill, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs put forward amendments to be included in the bill.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna put forth an amendment which called for a report on how leaving the EU would impact on the NHS’s finances. In essence the report would highlight whether Vote Leave’s £350m NHS pledge would actually happen once we left the EU.

The vote was lost 337 to 288 votes and among those who voted against the amendment were lead Brexiteers, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

After the vote Mr Umunna told the BBC he watched with sheer fury as the people who made the promise voted against the amendment that would make good on the promise they made to millions of people.

He said: “It was a sad day for democracy.”

Labour MP Harriet Harman also put forth an amendment that would protect all EU citizens legally living in the UK on the 23 June by guaranteeing their right to reside in the UK.

Mrs Harman said in her speech to the commons that this was about 3m people and their families whose future was thrown into doubt when the UK decided to leave the EU.

She said: “This new clause is quite simple.  It says that if you were a lawful resident here before the referendum decision on June 23rd, then your rights of residence will remain unchanged.”

She reiterated that: “This new clause is not only the right thing to do as a matter of principle, its legally necessary. The government cannot bargain away people’s human rights.”

In a white paper published last week Mrs May said she wanted to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK as early possible, but will made it clear she would not agree any terms until the status of UK citizens living in the EU was also protected.

Despite calls urging Mrs May to grant protection first without waiting for other EU countries to protect UK citizens it was defeated. MPs voted 332 to 290, which will no doubt make those affected extremely nervous for their future.

The Liberal Democrats were also defeated in their calls for a 2nd referendum to take place once the terms of the UK’s exit have been agreed but before the official withdrawal happens.

The bill will now be debated in the House of Lords when they return from recess on 20 February.