Cumbrians have hit out at Conservative MPs in the county for voting against a proposal guaranteeing that child refugees in Europe would be reunited with their families in the UK after Brexit.

But Carlisle MP John Stevenson said the vote was about “focusing” the Brexit Bill, rather than an indication that the Government’s position had changed on unaccompanied child refugees.

On Wednesday, as part of the ongoing Parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill, the House of Commons rejected a Labour amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on unaccompanied child refugees in Europe being united with family members in the UK

Mr Stevenson, who opposed the amendment alongside fellow Conservatives Workington MP Mark Jenkinson and Penrith and the Border MP Neil Hudson, said the Government had not changed its stance on assisting refugees.

“Before the election, when the Government did not have a majority, bills were hijacked and inappropriate amendments to legislation were made,” Mr Stevenson said.

“Issues that are important in their own right and deserve to be the focus of debate were tacked onto bills in a way that was not appropriate.

“Now the Government has a majority and is able to do this, they have taken the Withdrawal Bill and stripped it back to what it is meant to be about.

“There was a similar removal made on nuclear power. But it does not mean the Government has suddenly changed its position on nuclear power or on refugees.

“It is an issue that should be addressed in a different way with appropriate government legislation.”

Mr Stevenson said if the same issue was brought forward in separate legislation, he would scrutinise it with a “sympathetic” eye.

“But if the issue was put forward in separate legislation, it would of course depend on the exact circumstances whether or not I would support it,” he added.

However, critics of this week’s vote saw it as a signal that the Government was turning away from supporting child refugees.

James Cartwright, a member of Carlisle Refugee Action Group, described the vote as “incredibly disappointing”that the MP is willing to see children risk their lives crossing Europe and trying to cross the channel.

“Cumbria has a proud history of welcoming refugees, stretching back from the Spanish Civil War right through to the Balkan crisis in the 1990s to today, with Cumbria now hosting 200 refugees under the government’s resettlement scheme.

“You would hope that our MP, even if he’s not able to care about the plight of vulnerable children, homeless and alone - often with relatives in the UK - on our shores, would reflect on the sort of good news stories that have been created by our communities and the refugees who have arrived in the past couple of years, and recognise the value of that.

“Local authorities, including Cumbria, and foster agencies across the UK advised the government that there is capacity to accept more children.

“Yet the government, supported by our MP, has chosen to stop us helping children that they know are in danger.”

Adrienne Gill, a fellow member of the Carlisle Refugee Action Group, added: “I am disappointed with the outcome of the vote and would certainly doubt that British children would ever be treated in this way should they ever have to seek refuge in another country.”