Brexit moved a step closer after British MPs this evening voted for the first time in favour of legislation to pave the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger the formal process of leaving the EU.

The European Union (Notification Of Withdrawal) Bill, which will allow the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaties was backed by 498 MPs to 114, a majority of 384, at second reading in the House of Commons, its first stage.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was unable to contain a revolt on his frontbench as two shadow cabinet ministers quit so they could defy his orders and vote against the Bill.

Shadow environment secretary and York Central MP Rachael Maskell and shadow equalities minister and Brent Central MP Dawn Butler both defied a three-line whip so they could vote in line with the way their constituencies voted in the referendum.

Mr Corbyn will decide later on how to respond to an expected rebellion among junior frontbenchers over Article 50.

Following a marathon 17 hours of debate over two days, MPs will now await the publication tomorrow of the government's promised white paper setting out its strategy for withdrawal from the EU.

Downing Street said it would "reflect the Government's plan for Brexit as the PM set out in her speech on our negotiating objectives".

The major Commons skirmishes on the Bill are expected to take place next week during its committee stage, when the Government is likely to face attempts to amend it from all sides.

A total of 47 Labour MPs defied Mr Corbyn's orders and voted against the Bill.
Former chancellor Ken Clarke was the only Conservative to vote against the legislation.

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