EU Notification of Withdrawal Act

This webpage details the stages of the EU Notification of Withdrawal Act as it progressed through both Houses of Parliament. Please read below to see Heidi's explanations about the debates and her voting decisions.


13 March 2017 - Consideration of Lords Amendments to the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill

Lords Amendment 1 - EU nationals

You will know by now I am sure, that the Lords Amendment on EU nationals was voted down by 335 votes to 287. It was as you would expect a heated debate, but one which reached its end in the Commons. The Lords last night confirmed they will pursue it no further. If you wish, you can watch the debate here

I carefully studied the wording of the amendment over the weekend, listened to the Brexit Secretary’s arguments and reflected on the assurances the Prime Minister had given me in previous weeks. My vote to abstain reflected the conclusions I drew.

Local businesses, our scientific, healthcare and academic organisations know I am acutely aware of the situation for EU nationals and the great contribution they make to our local economy. Indeed, South Cambs would not be the prosperous area it is today without the role they play in our industrial, academic, care and agricultural sectors. 

I spoke passionately in support of this subject when the Bill progressed through the House earlier in February during its’ Committee Stage

and called on the Prime Minister to make a unilateral agreement with her counterparts in Europe:

Turning to the technical language of the Lords' amendment, it would in fact not have provided the safeguards required to protect the rights to residency status of EU nationals. How could we vote to guarantee they 

"continue to be treated in the same way with regards to their EU derived-rights and, in the case of residency, their potential to acquire such rights in the future"

when so many of these rights, including freedom of movement, depend on the larger withdrawal deal yet to be agreed by 27 member states? We cannot anticipate the moves of all EU leaders so are not in a position to say what their "future" rights may be. 

The amendment was technically weak, but I understood it to be symbolically important. The Prime Minister had given me personal assurances that she would resolve this impasse as a first priority once Article 50 is triggered, and please remember it is other EU leaders who have demanded Article 50 be triggered before an agreement can be reached. And finally, the Prime Minister must also safeguard the rights of our UK nationals currently residing and working in Europe.

All of these considerations together brought me to the decision to abstain. I could not support the Government unreservedly, yet acknowledged the assurances I had been given and the flaws in the amendment.

As I said to the Prime Minister, if no positive announcement is made within the first six months following the triggering of Article 50, I will push her again to make a unilateral offer.

Lords Amendment 2 - Parliamentary vote on the final deal

The second Lords Amendment on the final withdrawal deal was voted down by 331 votes to 286. It was again a heated debate, but as with Amendment 1, it reached its end in the Commons and the Lords confirmed they will pursue it no further. If you wish, you can watch the debate here

When a similar amendment (NC110) was debated during the Bill’s Committee Stage in February, you will know I supported and voted for it. You can read more here:

It is absolutely crucial that the final deal is the very best we can achieve and that parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise it. 

It is for this reason that I, along with my parliamentary colleagues including Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan (who have been equally as outspoken about this issue) voted to abstain yesterday evening. Quite simply, on our benches we did not have the numbers to win the amendment, so far more powerful that we combined as a common voice.

I take this issue extremely seriously and could not, in all conscience, give the Government my full support on this issue. However an under numbered and impotent rebellion would have burned our bridges with Ministers, and extinguished our argument once and for ever.

This was not an easy decision to make, but please be assured that we will continue to hold the Government to account as we enter the negotiation period. This is a long ball game and we will continue to push for the right deal for Great Britain, nothing else will do.


8 February 2017 - Committee Stage Debate Day 3 - The EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill

Today, the House debated amendments to the Bill regarding the UK's negotiation priorities and any remaining clauses and amendments ahead of the Third Reading of the Bill.

You can see the full list of amendments that were selected by the Deputy Speaker to be debated and voted on by following the link here.

The Deputy Speaker chose to call nine votes last night on NC2, NC7, Amendment 29, Amendment 11, Amendment 43, Amendment 86, Clauses 1 & 2, NC57, NC192. This was followed by the vote on the Third Reading.

You will all know that I spoke in support of New Clause 57 on Monday 6 Feb. This clause was pushed to a vote on Wednesday and a number of my constituents have contacted me since then about my vote. I am acutely appreciative of the contribution that EU citizens bring to our country, especially constituencies like ours. In South Cambs, we rely heavily on the brains and skills that keep our scientific, agricultural, care and academic communities alive and high performing. I made this clear in the speech I made during the debate of the Article 50 Bill. Although the vast majority of EU citizens have automatic protection in numerous forms, as outlined here on my website, I know it remains a real concern for those potentially affected. How can it not when it affects families and financial security.

I wish the Prime Minister had made a unilateral statement before we got into the debate, some months ago. However, I appreciate she had regard for our own UK citizens residing in the EU and she wanted to ensure their rights were preserved too. Personally speaking, I believe had she made an early unilateral statement, other EU leaders would have struggled to do anything other than offer immediate reciprocal rights. The moral pressure on them to challenge such a position would have been too great. However, the PM knows the leaders of other countries far better than I do, and in her judgement she decided to wait until reciprocal rights were forthcoming.

You will I am sure have read in the press that a couple of EU leaders have stood firm and will not engage in any such talks until Article 50 is formally triggered. As such, we have reached a very unfortunate state of impasse where nobody will engage until Art 50 has commenced. I wish sincerely this were not the case, but I do understand the PM's profound desire to protect her own citizens abroad.

I pushed her hard on this point in a debate on 6 February as follows...

...and I felt her sincerity around achieving reciprocal rights as a mater of urgency to be genuine. As such, I have put my personal trust in her to deliver on this as soon as possible. I abstained in the vote as I could certainly not vote against an amendment with such good and sensible intentions. I felt an abstention would reflect the trust I have placed in our PM, whilst also registering my disquiet.

Please be assured if no positive announcement is made within 6 months of the triggering of Article 50, I will push the PM to reconsider making a reciprocal offer.

Voting Results:

New Clause 2 - Ayes: 291 & Noes: 336

New Clause 7 - Ayes: 289 & Noes: 336

Amendment 29 - Ayes: 288 & Noes: 338

Amendment 11 - Ayes: 288 & Noes: 337

Amendment 43 - Ayes: 33 & Noes: 340

Amendment 86 - Ayes: 288 & Noes: 327

Clauses 1 & 2 - Ayes: 496 & Noes: 327

New Clause 57 - Ayes: 290 & Noes: 332

New Clause 192 - Ayes: 287 & Noes: 336

Third Reading - Ayes: 494 & Noes: 122

As the Bill has now passed its' Third Reading in the House of Commons, it will now progress to the House of Lords to undergo further scrutiny. Peers may choose to accept the Bill, or to table further amendments to it. We must wait and see. The first date scheduled for debate in the House of Lords is Monday 20 February.


7 February 2017 - Committee Stage Debate Day 2 - The EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill

Today, the House debated amendments to the Bill regarding a vote on the final terms of the UK's withdrawal deal, and amendments relating to impact assessments of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

You can see the full list of amendments that were selected by the Deputy Speaker to be debated and voted on by following the link here.

Over the last 24 hours, I have received a number of emails from my constituents requesting that I support New Clause 99. You will know by now that NC99 was not pushed to a vote during the debate yesterday, however, New Clause 110 which contained similar content was. You can read the full text of the amendment below:

“Future relationship with the European Union

  1. Following the exercise of power in section 1, any new Treaty or relationship with the European Union must not be concluded unless the proposed terms have been subject to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.
  2. In the case of any new Treaty or relationship with the European Union, the proposed terms must be approved by resolution of each House of Parliament before they are agreed with the European Commission, with a view to their approval by the European Parliament or the European Council.

In short, this amendment would seek to ensure that Parliament must give approval to any new deal following the negotiation period, and that this approval must be given in advance of any final agreement with the EU Commission, Parliament or European Council.

I supported this amendment, indeed, I voted for it last night. My vote reflected the concerns raised by many hundreds of my constituents about the risk of no parliamentary scrutiny of the final deal. As I have stated before, it is so important that the final deal we negotiate is the very best we can get and it is critical that I and my parliamentary colleagues have the opportunity to fully scrutinise and challenge the Government where necessary. Although the amendment was defeated last night, please be reassured that I will continue to ensure that the needs and concerns of South Cambs are heard at the highest levels of Government. You can see my interviews on this subject for BBC Look East and Channel 4 News by following the link here.

The Deputy Speaker chose to call five votes last night on New Clauses 1, 110, 180, 5 and 143.

Voting Results:

New Clause 1 - This clause was formally withdrawn by the Shadow Minister ahead of the vote and was therefore not pushed to a vote.

New Clause 110 - Ayes: 293 & Noes 326

New Clause 180 - Ayes: 88 & Noes 336

New Clause 5 - Ayes: 281 & Noes 337

New Clause 143 - Ayes: 79 & Noes 333


6 February 2017 - Committee Stage Debate Day 1 - The EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill

Today, the House debated amendments to the Bill regarding parliamentary scrutiny on the process for the UK's withdrawal from the EU (including the rights of EU citizens in the UK), and amendments relating to the devolved administrations and legislatures.

You can see the full list of amendments that were selected by the Deputy Speaker to be debated and voted on by following the link here.

During the debate, I rose to speak in support of New Clauses 171, 173 and 57.

New Clause 171 would ask the Government to produce a report on the UK's participation in and engagement with the Erasmus programme following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

New Clause 173 would ask the Government to produce a report on the UK's participation in and engagement with the European Research Area (ERA) following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

New Clause 57 would seek to protect the rights of residence for EU citizens who were lawfully resident in the UK on the date of the referendum. It would ensure that those rights do not fall away automatically two years after notice of withdrawal has been given, if no agreement has been reached with the EU. It is important to note that whilst this clause was debated on Monday, a vote on this amendment will not occur until Wednesday 8 February. This is because, according to the Programme Motion, this amendment relates specifically to the negotiation priorities for the UK, votes for which will occur on Wednesday.

You can watch my full speech in the debate here. In short, I urged the Government to lead by example and make a unilateral agreement offering rights of residency to the EU citizens currently resident in the UK and requested that this should remain one of the highest priorities for the Prime Minister as we enter into the negotiation period. Indeed, I questioned Theresa about this earlier in the day during the Prime Minister's statement to the House about the Informal European Council. You can see my full question and response by following the link here.

The Deputy Speaker chose to call four votes last night on New Clauses 3, 4, 26 and 158.

Voting Results:

New Clause 3 - Ayes: 284 & Noes: 333

New Clause 4 - Ayes: 276 & Noes: 333

New Clause 26 - Ayes: 62 & Noes: 332

New Clause 158 - Ayes: 267 & Noes: 330


1 February 2017 - Vote on the Article 50 Bill - Heidi explains her voting decision

Voting Results:

Ayes - 498

Noes - 114

You can read my full statement below and listen to my interview on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire here.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on 24 January, I have received hundreds of emails from constituents on both sides of the argument asking for my views and voting intentions. Given the tight timescales for the Bill, I fear I would be unable to answer each email individually so have instead attempted to answer all questions here.

Can we overturn the result of the referendum?

Since the result, I have received a steady flow of emails requesting I act to overturn the referendum result on the basis of the slim majority, it being deemed advisory and concerns about turnout thresholds. So I should start by reminding constituents that Parliament passed the European Referendum Act 2015 by a majority of 491. It followed normal parliamentary procedure and was scrutinised heavily by both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

The European Referendum Act 2015 does not contain any provisions for a minimum or maximum turnout threshold, nor any threshold measures for a gap between the proportional percentage of those choosing to leave or remain in the EU.

The result of the referendum therefore was determined by the majority vote as per turnout on the day and we cannot retrospectively build in rules or criteria and question the value of the result.

I believe in democracy and therefore no matter how painful it is, we cannot simply ignore the decision because we do not like it. Over 33 million votes were cast at the referendum. Whilst I accept it was a close vote, there was a decisive outcome. I know many constituents (myself included) are disappointed in the result but this is the nature of democracy and we must accept the result.

But the majority of  South Cambs voted to remain!

Since the introduction of the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill (Art 50) last week, I have been in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand I fully accept that as a whole, South Cambs voted to remain, but on the other hand, MPs must also consider the national interest. We represent our constituency, but we are not delegates. We are elected to exercise our best judgement on behalf of the people we represent, even when this judgement seems at odds with the wishes of our constituents.

Many of you will know by now that I am not afraid to speak out against the Government nor do the whips hold power over me. I do not make decisions based on ambition or career prospects, nor do I put political allegiance above independence of thought or the needs of my constituents and the country. 

Knowing as we do, that the majority of this country and their MPs support Brexit, the numbers are against "Remain". Brexit will be triggered through Article 50.

I have analysed how "useful" a vote against this Bill tonight would be. Certainly I could vote against tonight, but what would that actually achieve? If the numbers are against us, I know it would be a hollow gesture. Please do not think I say that flippantly or casually. I do not underestimate the feelings of the majority of my constituents who are desperate for us to remain - but I owe you my pragmatism as well as my fight and my passion.

Even if all MPs voted as their constituencies did in the referendum, the Bill would still pass. Besides, this Bill is not designed to stop Brexit. It is a procedural Bill, giving parliamentary consent for the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50. 

What is actually being voted on tonight?

Tonight’s vote is only the first stage of the Bill. Having been introduced to the House on 26th January, tonight is only its second reading. It is not the end of the road. 

The Bill will return to us next week as it progresses through a Committee of the whole house. Over the course of three days, amendments to the Bill will be split, debated and voted on according to subject matter:

-        Mon 6 Feb – parliamentary scrutiny of the withdrawal process and devolved administrations.

-        Tues 7 Feb – vote on the final withdrawal deal and impact assessments.

-        Weds 8 Feb – UK’s negotiation priorities and any remaining new clauses or amendments.

Next week’s debate is crucial, much more so than tonight's vote

Deciding not to vote against the Bill tonight does not mean I am reconciled to the result.

Even as I write this, amendments to the Bill are being tabled thick and fast. Over the next few days I will ensure I scrutinise all those tabled because this is where I believe I can make a real difference as your MP. Much more so than symbolically voting against tonight.

So far, a few have caught my eye already.  New Clauses 47 and 49 call for impact assessments on the future of our research and development collaborations, the single market, and the residency of our EU citizens. New clauses 99 and 54 would respectively provide for primary legislation to vote through any final deal, and would require the PM to ask for an extended period of negotiation time if a final deal had not been reached or voted through by Parliament. New clause 51 describes the requirements of the White Paper.

You can see the full list here:

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning next week, the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will select the amendments to be debated and voted on. So it is essential that I take the next two days to fully digest the amendments so far tabled and if I can improve on them, table one myself.  If I feel that any amendment(s) will add safeguards and conditions for our withdrawal deal, I will add my name and speak in the debates. In this way, I believe I will enact more power and influence to ensure the needs of South Cambs are met. Following this, the Bill will progress to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. Peers may choose to accept the Bill as is, or request further amendments. Clearly we cannot second guess what they will do and must wait and see.

A good deal for South Cambs

In conversation with whips, they know my vote tonight does not come freely nor easily. I have made it clear that if I do not receive assurances, I will support any amendment that provides the protections I believe we need in this deal. I have tried to avoid using the terms "soft" or "hard" Brexit. However, I must be assured that we will not go plunging out of the single market without tariff free trade for our core industries, nor will I allow our hard working EU citizens to be marginalised in anyway. Collaboration across the EU has been at the heart of our success in Cambridge and the surrounding region.

I know our region is of the upmost value to the UK economy, and as such I will demand our needs are recognised and our concerns listened to. I will insist on regular dialogue with the DEXEU team and a voice that is represented and echoed at the negotiating table. Please be assured I will never stop representing South Cambs. But to serve you best, it is critical that I retain the ability to exercise this power; an opportunity that would undoubtedly be closed to me if I voted against the Bill in any form. 

The White Paper

The Government will soon publish a White Paper detailing our negotiation strategy and priorities. As many of us have pressed for this ahead of the conclusion of the Article 50 Bill, I am led to believe this may be tomorrow. This document will give MPs the opportunity to hold the Government to account on its’ negotiating objectives and is expected to provide clarification for the future parliamentary timetable for Brexit legislation in tandem with the negotiation timetable. 

More votes to come

Put simply, we do not yet know the amount of Brexit legislation which will need to be voted through the House, ahead of leaving the EU. There have been strong indications from the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU that, among others, Parliament will have three further significant votes. A vote for the Great Repeal Bill, a vote on the final deal, and then a vote to ratify the final agreement under the Constitutional Reform Act before the official date of withdrawal. It is also likely that there will need to be more primary legislation passed on major policy changes such as migration or trade agreements. Because of this future legislation, it is critical that I and my parliamentary colleagues have the ability to fully scrutinise and challenge the Government where necessary.

Tonight is the beginning, not the end

In conclusion, we must remember that the vote tonight is not the end – it is only the beginning. The Prime Minister now faces a lengthy period of negotiation and it is likely there will be compromises to the twelve objectives she set out in her speech at Lancaster House. However, my ability to support amendments at Committee stage next week and feed into the negotiations will allow me to influence the highest levels of Government on your behalf.

I ask that you put your faith in me to work to secure the best deal for us. If at the end of the process, I am not happy with the final deal, I will vote against it.