Brexit: MPs overturn Lords amendments on EU nationals and Parliament vote

Tom Powell
MPs return their result after voting to reject Lord's amendment: PA

MPs have overturned a Brexit Bill amendment designed to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.

Britain took a step closer to withdrawal from the European Union on Monday evening after MPs also overturned a second House of Lords amendment which wanted Parliament to have a "meaningful" vote on the final deal.

The Bill will now return to the Lords but the Commons effectively cleared the way for Theresa May to formally start Britain's exit from the EU.

Peers had backed a Labour-led change to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill which called for ministers to bring forward proposals within three months of the triggering of Brexit talks to ensure the rights of EU nationals continue.

But the Commons voted down the Lords' amendment by 335 votes to 287, a majority of 48.

The two Tories were joined by 210 Labour MPs, 54 SNP, nine Liberal Democrats, three SDLP, three Plaid Cymru, two Ulster Unionist Party, three independents and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas in opposing the Government.

Six Labour MPs voted with the Government, including Frank Field (Birkenhead), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West), Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) and Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston).

They were joined by 319 Conservatives, eight DUP, Ukip's Douglas Carswell and independent Simon Danczuk.

Around 3.2 million EU citizens live in the UK while more than a million British expats reside in other EU member states.

MPs voted in the Commons on Monday evening (PA)

Brexit Secretary David Davis earlier told MPs he expected a "swift" agreement with EU member states on the issue.

A potential Tory rebellion on the second vote - to overturn the proposal from peers for a "meaningful" vote - failed to materialise.

MPs voted against the amendment by 331 votes to 286, a majority of 45.

Division list analysis shows no Tories opposed the Government's motion to disagree with the Lords amendment.

A number of Tory MPs who expressed concerns over the Government's approach appeared to abstain on the meaningful vote amendment by not voting.

They included former ministers Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry, former attorney general Dominic Grieve, Justice Select Committee chairman Bob Neill, as well as backbenchers Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) and Ben Howlett (Bath).

The Prime Minister looks set to wait another fortnight before kicking off the two-year process of negotiating departure under Article 50 of the EU treaties, with formal notification expected to take place in the last week of March.

Mrs May's official spokesman played down suggestions that the PM had delayed notification due to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that she plans to stage a second independence referendum in the run-up to the expected date of Brexit in spring 2019.

If the Upper Chamber decides not to contest the rejection of its amendment by the elected House, as expected, Mrs May needs only to await royal assent of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill before triggering Article 50.

There was widespread speculation in Westminster that she could do so as early as Tuesday, when she is scheduled to make a statement on Europe to the Commons.

But her spokesman told reporters the PM had always said she would notify the European Council of the UK's intention to leave by the end of March, adding: "I've said 'end' many times but it would seem I didn't put it in capital letters strongly enough."

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