LONDON (Sputnik) — Seven UK parliamentarians from the Labour Party broke ranks to vote for the EU Withdrawal Bill, which repeals the precedence of the EU legislation over UK law, and subsequently came under fire for their decision to support the Conservative government.
On Tuesday, the bill was approved by UK parliamentarians at the second reading and is still subject to further approvals on various levels before it can be implemented. The House of Commons voted 326 to 290 in favor the bill. Apart from the seven aforementioned Labor members, 14 others from the opposition party reportedly abstained from the vote.
Lack of prospective
"When there is already so much at stake given the economic fallout behind Brexit, it is very odd indeed for Labour MPs to behave like this. Some might call it principle or voting with your conscience, but the fact is this bill harms Britain, and those MPs made the wrong choice. There is a lack of perspective there," a source with the Liberal Democrats told Sputnik.
Tom Brake, the Brexit spokesman for the Liberal Democrats party, used stronger language. Brake said that the parliamentarians who had supported the bill should feel "ashamed" and that the "Labour rebels" had "handed the government sweeping anti-democratic powers."
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer also lamented the outcome of the vote, denouncing the result as "an affront to parliamentary democracy and a naked power grab" by UK Prime Minister Theresa May's government.
"[The Withdrawal Bill] leaves rights unprotected, it silences parliament on key decisions and undermines the devolution settlement… Labour will seek to amend and remove the worst aspects from the Bill as it passes through Parliament. But the flaws are so fundamental it's hard to see how this Bill could ever be made fit for purpose," Starmer pointed out.
Reasons behind Labour’s support
Dennis Skinner, Labour politician known for his firebrand performances in parliament, was one of those who voted for the government's position on leaving the European Union. Skinner explained his move by citing his long-term belief that the European Union was "undemocratic."
"I have carried the same torch for forty seven years; it is not about immigration but because the EU is undemocratic. I have had scores of people emailing me since I cast my vote thanking me for standing my ground, and these are people that I don’t know but they know it’s all about principle. When you act on principle, you shouldn't be subject to attacks by people who waft in the wind," the politician told the Morning Star newspaper on Wednesday.
Former Labour minister Caroline Flint was among those who abstained, claiming that her fellow opposition parliamentarians were defying the public in a bid to "thwart the result of the EU referendum and prevent or delay the UK leaving the EU."
"I believe Labour's job is to improve the bill by amending it – not killing the bill at the beginning of its passage through parliament," Flint pointed out.
Labour has traditionally had a mixed perspective on the European Union, with some objecting to anti-monopoly laws that prevent wide-scale nationalization, itself a key component of "old labour" policies that have enjoyed something of a resurgence under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
The United Kingdom and the European Union began Brexit negotiations in June and are expected to conclude them by March 29, 2019.