THERESA May succeeded in getting flagship Brexit bill over its first Commons hurdle this morning as several Labour backbenchers defied party leader Jeremy Corbyn's order to oppose the legislation.

The EU Withdrawal Bill was voted through by 326 votes to 290, giving the Prime Minister a majority of 36, helped by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists and Labour rebels.

But ministers were taking no chances with Boris Johnson and David Davis issuing last-minute pleas to back the bill, which repeals the 1972 Act which took Britain into the European Economic Community and incorporates EU rules and regulations into the domestic law-book.

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The Foreign Secretary said a Commons defeat would result in a "disorderly" departure from the EU in March 2019 while the Brexit Secretary warned colleagues: "A vote against this bill is a vote for a chaotic exit from the European Union.”

Ministers believe the bill will ensure a smooth transition out of the EU, avoiding a "cliff-edge of uncertainty".

But Mr Corbyn insisted the legislation was "a power grab by the Government at the expense of our democratically elected Parliament" because it would give ministers authority to amend laws without full scrutiny.

Stephen Gethins for the SNP noted how, on the very day Scotland celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Scottish devolution referendum result, the Tory Government was seeking to pass a bill, which would “not just take back control from Brussels but from Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff as well”.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, accusing the Tories of managing Britain’s relationship with the EU not in the national interest but in their own party’s interest, declared: “This Government stitch-up is totally indefensible.”

While Mrs May successful at the bill’s second reading, several late night cliff-edge votes are expected in the months ahead as not only opposition MPs but Tories too seek to amend the legislation.

Bob Neill, who chairs the Commons Justice Committee, said some of the proposals in terms of powers were "unacceptable and unnecessary" but blocking the bill would "do nothing for the good governance of the country nor for business confidence".

His Tory colleague Maria Miller, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said an amendment would be necessary to "explicitly commit to maintaining current levels of equality protection".

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Commons Health Committee, said she would support the Government but only in the "expectation that they will support sensible amendments" later on.

On the Labour side, Caroline Flint, the former Europe minister, accused opponents of the bill of wanting to "thwart the result of the EU referendum and prevent or delay the UK leaving the EU". She confirmed she would defy her party whips and abstain. Other Labour rebels were expected to include Leave supporters Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer, Frank Field and John Mann.

But their colleague, Vernon Coaker, the former Shadow Defence Secretary, made clear he opposed the bill, saying: "My constituency voted to leave and I respect that. But what they didn't vote for was leaving at any cost to jobs, to business, to workers' rights, to the environment, to welfare, to the unity of our country.”

As the vote took place, the Government published its latest policy paper on Brexit and defence and foreign affairs, offering a "deep security partnership" with the remaining 27-nation EU.

Under the proposals Britain would, post Brexit, continue contributing troops and military assets to EU operations, agreeing joint foreign policy positions with Brussels and co-operating on international sanctions against states or terrorist organisations.

In her Article 50 letter triggering the Brexit process, the PM warned failure to reach a deal would mean "co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened"; the statement was taken by some in Brussels as a threat to future security links.

The Government said the new paper demonstrated Britain’s continuing commitment to European security, making clear it would seek to use its assets, capabilities and influence in a security partnership that was "deeper than any other third country and that reflects our shared interest".

Mr Johnson said: "As we leave the EU, the UK's commitment to European security is undiminished. We will pursue a global foreign policy and continue to work in partnership with our neighbours to promote peace, democracy and security in our continent and across the world.”

Labour’s Chris Bryant, on behalf of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, welcomed the Government’s move but added: “It makes a mockery of their threat to leave the EU with no deal at all. Doing so would overnight end our security relationship with Europe, putting our citizens and theirs at risk.

"It is high time the Government dropped its absurd no-deal threat,” he added.