Anger as Brexit Bill to be 'railroaded' through Parliament

Labour MPs have expressed outrage at the Government's decision to give the Commons less than a fortnight to debate its Bill to trigger Article 50.

Brexit Secretary David Davis

Ministers unveiled legislation paving the way for Brexit talks earlier today, informing MPs that they will have just three days to discuss amendments before a final vote on February 8.

In total, the Bill will be allocated five days in the Commons, which Leader of the House David Lidington suggested was more than enough time to scrutinise "a two-clause Bill".

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But Labour backbenchers have complained of an attempt to "muzzle" MPs, as they accused ministers of showing "contempt" for Parliament.

Responding to the news, Nottingham East MP Chris Leslie said: “The Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the courts to bring this bill before Parliament and yet they still seem determined to gag parliamentarians as much as possible.

“It is simply unacceptable for Ministers to try and railroad this incredibly important law through Parliament without sufficient time for proper debate.

“It beggars belief that we will have far less time to debate the legislation that takes us out of the EU than we did previous European treaties.

“This is the most significant law we’ve ever debated on our relationship with Europe and yet the Government will only give it an eighth of the time that was spent on the Maastricht Treaty.”

The publication of the Bill comes amid reports that Labour frontbenchers are preparing to rebel over the party's plans to impose a three-line whip on the vote.

According to the Guardian, there have been calls for a free vote, and warnings of potential resignations from the Shadow Cabinet.

The former minister Ben Bradshaw has taken to Twitter to urge Labour whips to note the level of concern among backbenchers over the Government's timetable.

He added: "The Tories' restriction of debate on detail of Article 50 to just 3 days is a disgrace. Labour must oppose this contempt for Parliament."

The publication of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill follows Tuesday's ruling by the Supreme Court that Parliament must be consulted before ministers trigger Article 50 - the formal mechanism to begin exit talks.

Commenting on the legislation, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: "The British people have made the decision to leave the EU and this government is determined to get on with the job of delivering it.

“So today we have introduced a Bill in Parliament which will allow us to formally trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

“I trust that Parliament, which backed the referendum by six to one, will respect the decision taken by the British people and pass the legislation quickly.”