Three MPs from the Nottinghamshire area rebelled against their parties last night (Wednesday), voting against the implementation of the so-called Brexit bill.
The bill passed through the House of Commons comfortably with 498 MPs voting to give the Government permission to begin invoking Article 50.
Whilst only 114 MPs voted against it, including Graham Allen (Lab, Nottingham North), Lilian Greenwood (Lab, Nottingham South) and Ken Clarke (Con, Rushcliffe).
Speaking to BBC Radio Nottingham this morning, Graham Allen defended his position in the Commons last night: “My constituents know that I may be an awkward bee at times but I’m going to be awkward on their behalf to get the best possible deal.
“My constituents will not thank me if I just sit there, say nothing and allow us to have a stupid ideological deal and pull out of absolutely anything and have no trade relations with people or have no serious discussion with our European partners about how this divorce works.
“We’ve jumped out of the aeroplane, in some regard, and what I’m saying is that we need that parachute, we need to make sure we have the best possible landing rather than just going splat one day when we’ve suddenly just left the European Union without any trade treaty’s with anyone and no discussion with our European partners.”
Allen, along with Lilian Greenwood and Chris Leslie (Lab, Notts East) who abstained from the vote, were amongst a fifth of Labour MPs who defied the three-line whip imposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier in the week.
Greenwood said in a statement that her decision was “the most difficult decision in almost 7 years as an MP”.
She added: “The Government’s Bill asked MPs to write a blank cheque. To trigger an irreversible process without proper information, scrutiny or safeguards.
“Some people have claimed that my actions make me an ‘enemy of democracy’, a charge I reject completely. I know that Brexit means Brexit but it doesn’t have to be this Brexit.”
Earlier in the week, former Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke gave an impassioned speech in the Commons which ended in a round of applause by members of the SNP, Labour rebels and Lib Dems, a gesture that is usually banned in the chamber.
In it he claimed that former Tory Enoch Powell, known for his infamous rivers of blood speech in 1968, would have been surprised at how anti-immigrant the party had become since the Brexit vote in June.
He said: “If he was here he would probably find it amazing to believe that his party had become Eurosceptic and rather mildly anti-immigrant in a strange way in 2016.
“I’m afraid on that I haven’t followed them and I don’t intend to do so.”
The Tory party grandee who is the fifth longest serving Conservative minister, a former Chancellor under John Major and health secretary under Margret Thatcher, was the only MP from his party to defy the whip.
During his 17-minute unscripted address to the house he criticised the optimism of Brexit MPs, saying: “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we’ve never been able to achieve.”
Now the bill has passed the second reading, Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 by the end of the March, formally beginning Britain’s exit from the EU.