In a historic night at Westminster, the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill cleared its first Parliamentary hurdle with the backing of 498 MPs.
In total, 114 MPs opposed the measure in their battle to block Britain’s departure from the EU.
But their opposition was crushed by the huge 384-vote margin. Anti-Brussels campaigners celebrated the dramatic moment.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage declared: “We have done it.” And former Tory Cabinet minister Owen Paterson added: “This is irrevocable – we have voted to take back control.
"We are going to celebrate that the House of Commons has voted to take back control.
MPs have voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU
“We have delivered what 17.4 million people wanted.”
We have delivered what 17.4 million people wanted
However Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was plunged into a fresh crisis when 47 of the party’s MPs defied his three-line whip and voted against the triggering of Article 50.
Just one Tory – veteran Europhile Kenneth Clarke – broke ranks to vote with the opponents of Brexit.
The crunch vote last night was held to give the Prime Minister full powers to press ahead with Brexit after the Supreme Court ruled Parliament had to be consulted first.
In a humiliating rebuff to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, MPs also roundly rejected an amendment tabled by the Scottish National Party seeking to block the progress of the Article 50 Bill.
A total of 336 MPs voted against the SNP amendment while 100 supported it, including 33 Labour rebels and Mr Clarke.
A further vote to rubber stamp the Parliamentary timetable was also passed by the Commons by 329 votes to 112.
MPs will have a further chance to debate the Bill before it passes to the House of Lords later this month.
Ed Miliband backed the bill despite having previously wanted to remain in the EU
However, Mrs May’s schedule for triggering Brexit before the end of March remains firmly on track. EU Exit Secretary David Davis will today set out details of the Government’s negotiating position in a “White Paper” policy document.
The various votes followed two days of high drama in the Commons. Ex-Chancellor George Osborne took a swipe at the Government, accusing ministers of failing to prioritise the economy in Brexit negotiations.
He warned the talks over departure will be “bitter”. However, he pledged to back the Bill despite his support for EU membership.
He said: “To vote against the majority verdict of the largest democratic exercise in British history would risk putting Parliament against people, provoking a deep constitutional crisis and alienating people who already feel alienated.”
However, he said he was “saddened” by the referendum result. “It saddens me Britain and Brexit are bracketed in the same group as other isolationist and nativist movements across the world,” he said.
“We should strive to be, as the Prime Minister says, a more global Britain. But I lost the case and sacrificed my position for it.”
Senior Tory backbencher Sir Gerald Howarth said Margaret Thatcher would have voted for triggering Article 50 if she had been an MP.
“I hope those countries who in large part owe their liberation from the Soviet yoke to the government of Margaret Thatcher will respect our decision and help us forge a new, constructive relationship,” he said.
Nigel Farage was in high spirits after the vote was announced
“I hope the same will apply to those who we helped rebuild after the Second World War.”
Tory MP Chris Green said: “The British people had 40 years to make up their mind. It wasn’t about the last few weeks of a referendum campaign, it was about the lived experience in the European Union.
“That’s why the people rejected it, not because of a few debatable arguments from one side or another.”
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband told MPs he would back the Bill to trigger Article 50, despite his past support for EU membership.
Theresa May now has the power to trigger Article 50
“I feel the referendum stemmed in part from the sense of disaffection and deep frustration about politics that exists in the country,” he said.
“We do not want to give the people who voted for Brexit a sense that they are being ignored once again.”
Tory MP Caroline Johnson, victor in the recent Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election, also used her maiden Commons speech to urge MPs to back the view of the majority.
However, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron angered Tory MPs by calling for a fresh referendum.
May's Brexit speech: World reacts LIVE
Tue, January 17, 2017
Politicians and celebrities tweet their reaction as Theresa May unveils her 12 point plan for Britain leaving the EU.
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President of the European Council, Donald Tusk tweets his frustration.
“The Prime Minister has made her choice. She has chosen hard Brexit. But if you are so confident that what you’re planning is what people voted for, then you must give them a vote on the final deal,” Mr Farron said.
“What started with democracy must not end up with a Government stitch-up. Both the Labour front bench and the Conservatives don’t want to give the British people their say – they think they know better.”
Mrs May yesterday stated that her planned official “White Paper”, setting out details of her blueprint for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, will be revealed tomorrow.
The document will flesh out the 12 objectives set out in the Prime Minister’s Brexit speech last month.
They include ending free movement for EU citizens to come to the UK and ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over British affairs.
Mr Farage added that he was "very pleased that Parliament has followed the will of the people."
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson declared: "Historic vote in Parliament tonight. A huge majority to get our Brexit negotiations going forward. History has been made."
Senior Tory MP Peter Bone said on Twitter: "Just voted for the UK to leave the EU! Great day for Parliament."
With abstentions, around 90 Labour MPs were thought to have defied their leader, leaving the party deeply split.
In a further embarrassment for Mr Corbyn, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott failed to vote in the Brexit division. Her office said she was ill, although she had been in the Commons chamber earlier yesterday.