British Prime Minister Theresa May has lost a key vote on the government’s Brexit bill after a rebellion by 11 Tory MPs.
Members of Parliament voted for Amendment 7 to Clause 9 to the bill on Wednesday, to demand parliament pass a separate bill with the European Union (E.U.) to approve any final agreement before withdrawal begins.
Mrs May lost by a narrow margin of 309 to 305 votes, despite a last minute attempt to offer concessions to rebels.
The EU Withdrawal Bill is a key part of the government’s exit strategy which will include ending the supremacy of EU law and copying existing EU law into UK law, so that the same rules and regulations apply on Brexit day.
MPs have made hundreds of attempts to change its wording but this is the first time one has succeeded.
Unless the government manages to overturn it later, a new Act of Parliament will have to be passed before ministers can implement the withdrawal deal struck with Brussels.
The defeat came after opposition parties joined with Conservative rebels during a heated debate in the Chamber on the amendment.
Critics accused those behind the amendment authored by former attorney general Dominic Grieve of trying to “frustrate Brexit and tying the government’s hands.
One of the rebels, former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan tweeted: “Tonight Parliament took control of the EU Withdrawal process” after the result was announced.
Tory rebels included Mr Grieve, Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Stephen Hammond, Sir Oliver Heald, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandback, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.
Mr Hammond was sacked as Conservative vice chairman in the aftermath of the vote.
Conservative MP John Stevenson abstained by voting in both lobbies.
Two Labor MPs Frank Field and Kate Hoey voted with the government.
The government said it was “disappointed” at the loss despite offering “strong assurances”.
“We are as clear as ever that this bill and the powers within it, are essential,” it said.
“This amendment does not prevent us from preparing our statute book for exit day. We will now determine whether further changes are needed to the Bill to ensure it fulfils its vital purpose.”
Justice Minister Dominic Raab said the defeat would not hold up the Brexit process.
“It’s a setback but it’s a fairly minor setback, it won’t frustrate the Brexit process,” he said.
“It’s not going to stop us leaving the EU in March 2019.”
It was the government’s first defeat on Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the defeat was a “humiliating loss of authority” for Mrs May ahead of an E.U. summit, where leaders will discuss Brexit.
He said “Parliament has asserted itself” amid a “power grab” by the prime minister.