Ministers comfortably defeated a bid to hand the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved administrations a veto on any Brexit deal.
Moves to repeal the legislation underpinning our EU membership on Brexit day were also passed by a margin of 318 to 62.
But hours of debate on the Bill laid bare the scale of the challenge the government has in store to steward it safely through parliament.
Former ministers Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan and Ken Clarke are among up to 20 Tories who have signalled they are ready to vote against plans to put the date we leave the EU on the domestic statute books.
Meanwhile, Labour is attempting to force the government into seeking a ‘standstill’ transition – with EU judges keeping the same powers even after we technically leave the bloc.
And the rebel Conservatives have been hit with a furious backlash for ‘collaborating’ with Labour to thwart key parts of the Bill as it returns for detailed scrutiny in parliament.
Labour’s Frank Field was embroiled in fiery clashes with Labour colleagues, and warned that the House of Lords would sound its own ‘death knell’ if it tried to block the Brexit Bill
Brexit minister Steve Baker said undermining the crucial legislation would leave the UK in a legal limbo, with potentially catastrophic consequences
The Commons today kicked off the first of eight marathon sittings which will see a coalition of Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and Tory Remainers try to water down the legislation
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve accused Brexiteers of being ‘delusional’ during the debate tonight
Tempers frayed tonight as the Commons kicked off the first of eight marathon sittings which will see a cross-party coalition of Remainers try to water down the legislation.
Labour veteran Frank Field was shouted down by colleagues as he said his party ‘needed educating’ about Brexit and the public would never forgive politicians if they failed to implement the result of the referendum.
At one point he jibed about former Cabinet minister Hilary Benn ‘inheriting’ houses – but then apologised.
Leading the committee stage debate for the government, Mr Baker said it was ‘an essential bill in the national interest which will ensure that whatever the outcome of the negotiations the statute book can continue function’.
‘The amendments would have the consequence of destroying this bill’s capacity to function in the event a withdrawal agreement was not concluded,’ he said.
‘And let me be clear, as a consequence of these amendments the bill’s crucial provisions could not come into effect until a second Act was passed.
‘The consequence would be legal chaos in the event that the second Act was not passed before 29 March 2019.’
He said if the amendments were passed, Britain would still leave the EU on March 29 2019, but ‘our domestic law would be in an unfit state and we could have legal chaos.’
‘As a responsible government we must be ready to leave without a deal even though we expect to conclude a deep and special partnership,’ he added.
In a significant concession last night, David Davis said the final Brexit deal would be enshrined in a dedicated Act of Parliament – meaning it could be voted down by MPs just weeks before the UK leaves in March 2019.
But Tory Remainers have said they are still determined to inflict defeats on the government after Mr Davis confirmed that despite his concession the UK will leave the EU without a deal if MPs voted down an agreement negotiated with Brussels.
Tory Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin (pictured left) seemed to be pointedly addressing colleagues Dominic Grieve (centre) and Anna Soubry (top right) as he warned MPs against allowing Remain views during the referendum to ‘colour their judgement’ on the Bill
Frank Field laid into colleague Hilary Benn, suggesting his colleague had ‘inherited houses’ – but quickly apologised after Mr Benn said it was not true
Labour’s David Lammy reacted with shock when Mr Field aimed his jibe at Mr Benn
They voiced their anger at a ‘stormy’ meeting with chief whip Julian King last night – although pro-Brexit MPs also made their feelings clear.
Former attorney-general Mr Grieve, who is leading a group of about a dozen Tory rebels, has tabled 19 amendments.
He again made clear today that he will oppose the Government’s ‘mad’ and ‘stupid’ decision to enshrine the Brexit date in law.
‘I have to say I find this amendment by the government so very strange, because it seems to me to fetter the government, to add nothing to the strength of the Government’s negotiating position, and in fact potentially to create a very great problem that could be brought back to visit on us at a later stage.’
Former chancellor Ken Clarke told the Commons that specifying the Brexit date in legislation was ‘ridiculous and unnecessary’
Brexit Secretary David Davis was in the House tonight to listen to the debate unfold
Speaker John Bercow was in the chair for the start of the committee stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill this afternoon
The QC branded the national vote to leave the EU a ‘great and historic error’, saying Britain was engaged in an ‘extraordinary painful process of national self-mutilation’. He also branded Brexiteers ‘delusional’.
Former chancellor Ken Clarke told the Commons that specifying the Brexit date in legislation was ‘ridiculous and unnecessary’.
He said there would have to be a vote on the deal and legislation, which could take place after Brexit ‘particularly if the Government’s amendments are passed which increases that risk’.
He added: ‘It is not just ridiculous and unnecessary – it could be positively harmful to the national interest.’
Earlier, Ms Soubry reiterated her determination to rebel: ‘The date going into the bill has really upset a lot of really top-quality backbench Conservative MPs.
‘These are people, a lot of them ex-ministers, highly respected, and they are genuinely cross about this. There were some people there who have never rebelled and they are now talking, for the first time ever, of rebelling.’
Ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage branded the decision on the 1972 Act ‘progress’ – although the repeal will not be confirmed until the legislation is fully passed and enacted
David Davis (pictured arriving for Cabinet in Downing Street this morning) said to be angry with colleagues for pushing their own Brexit agendas. He announced the Brexit deal would have its own law last night
Michael Gove (right arriving for Cabinet this morning) and Boris Johnson (left outside No 10) were among the top ministers turning out for Cabinet today
Fellow Tory Antoinette Sandbach has branded Mr Davis’s concession of a second Brexit Bill ‘meaningless’ without further guarantees, while Heidi Allen, another rebel, described the concession as ‘pointless’.
But senior Conservative Bernard Jenkin said many MPs were allowing their allegiance to Remain to ‘colour their judgement’.
‘We have to accept the country voted Leave,’ he said. ‘I cannot understand how anyone can come to this House and say I am just simply not going to respect that decision.’
Ms Soubry could be heard saying: ‘You disgrace, Bernard. You’re a disgrace.’
But Mr Jenkin added: ‘What this amendment does is rumble those who have not really accepted that we’re leaving the European Union.’
Other Brexiteers privately complained about ‘collaboration’ between Tory Remoaners and Labour MPs.
The issue of including the Brexit date in the EU Withdrawal Bill was debated tonight, but due to the arcane processes of the House will not be voted on until December.
However, the government easily fought off amendments that would have given the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations a veto over the final Brexit deal, and passed a measure that will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the Brexit date by 618-62.
Ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage branded the decision on the 1972 Act ‘progress’ – although the repeal will not be confirmed until the legislation is fully passed and enacted.
‘Parliament has just repealed the illegitimate piece of legislation that took us into the EU all those years ago. Progress, but there is more to be done,’ Mr Farage tweeted.
JOB LOSS CLAIMS RUBBISHED
The chief executive of Germany’s biggest bank has rubbished European attempts to steal an essential part of London’s prized currency trading business, saying as few as 74 UK jobs would be lost.
Deutsche Bank boss John Cryan poured scorn on anti-Brexit campaigners’ claims that up to 100,000 roles could disappear from the City if so-called euro ‘clearing’ has to move. The business underpins the trade of trillions of euros every year and helps London maintain its supremacy over EU rivals.
Countries on the Continent have cast jealous eyes on the operation, hoping it will help them attract huge investment banks.
But Mr Cryan dismissed this as wishful thinking.
‘I don’t understand why the Europeans want clearing. There’s confusion about what it is. The idea of 74,000 jobs being at risk is ridiculous, it’s more like 74.’
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith warned that rebel MPs will put the future of the Government at risk if they inflicted defeats over the EU Withdrawal Bill, which paves the way for Brexit.
‘If people keep voting against the Government on this they make the Government’s position more untenable,’ he said.
Mr Duncan Smith also rounded on the Labour leadership after Sir Keir suggested Labour would accept a deal that kept Britain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) indefinitely.
Mr Duncan Smith accused Labour of betraying its voters, who backed Brexit in droves last year. ‘Staying inside the ECJ would be tantamount to staying in the EU,’ he said.
Government lawyers have told ministers that the exit deal needs to be enshrined in law to minimise the risk of future legal challenges.
But they first have to pass the EU Withdrawal Bill, which began its detailed scrutiny by MPs this afternoon.
Parliament is expected to sit until midnight to debate the first of 188 pages of amendments tabled by MPs.
The legislation is designed to ensure a smooth Brexit by transferring all existing EU regulations into British law. But pro-Remain MPs view it as an opportunity to frustrate the Brexit process – and possibly even halt it.
Tory whips hope the concession from Mr Davis could win over enough wavering MPs to avoid a string of damaging defeats.
They also believe the rebels could be partly balanced by pro-Brexit rebels in Labour’s ranks, making it possible that the legislation will pass.
Party whips are expecting a string of tight votes over the coming weeks, and all leave has been cancelled.
The offer from Mr Davis means the final Brexit deal will be enshrined in a dedicated Act of Parliament. Government sources played down the prospect of it being used to stop Brexit, saying any amendments to it would simply mean the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Theresa May, pictured at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet last night, is under pressure to seal a Brexit transition deal when she meets EU leaders in Brussels next month