UK's May defeats Brexit rebels, but divisions still reign

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Leading Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve denied he was trying to undermine the government or stop Brexit, but warned that if parliament rejected the final Brexit deal, there would be a crisis.

The Prime Minister welcomed the passage of the bill - which transfers European Union regulations on to the United Kingdom statute book - as "a crucial step in delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit".

The government says it backs a "baby leave" system for allow imminent or new parents to vote by proxy, but it has not been implemented.

With both sides claiming victory, it is not always easy to establish who or if there was a clear victor; ultimately, however, Mrs May kept the core of the Brexit Bill the same.

The vote, scheduled for around 15:30 (BST) on Wednesday, is set to be close, with both Conservative "rebels" planning to vote against the prime minister and sources close to government confident of victory. However, what these last few weeks have shown us is that, no matter how unpopular she may be, the Tory rebels (or more accurately the potential rebels) are not willing to take drastic action which will humiliate the Prime Minister.

However, it is important to note that this is only the beginning of the beginning of the legislative Brexit process, and the Trade and Customs Bills will come back to the Commons soon.

The Commons vote had been expected to be tight and the government eventually prevailed by a majority of 16.

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One lawmaker said May had had no option but to take on the rebels or risk their rebellion growing as she cuts ties with the EU.

Her compromise failed, and on Wednesday she will again try to head off a rebellion over the so-called meaningful vote on any Brexit deal that some lawmakers want to be able to make sure the government can not accept a "no deal" with Brussels.

Speaking at a reception hosted in Westminster by think tank Policy Exchange, Mrs May said: "With the Withdrawal Bill on its way to the statute book, it is time to unite as a country and as a party and focus on getting the very best Brexit deal for Britain".

He rejected some of the claims made about the consequences of a Government defeat which would give Parliament a greater role in the event of a failure to agree a Brexit deal.

The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain's wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament.

He added: "I continue to be hopeful that the Government will accept our position but fundamentally this is not about the Government, this is about Parliament and - I would argue - this is about my country, this is about securing a Brexit deal which is good for my country in the longer term".

Speaking in the Commons, Dominic Grieve said the issue of the meaningful vote was about giving "assurances to the House and many, many people in the country who are anxious about this process and how it will end".