The Brexit bill giving Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50 has passed

Adam Bienkov
Theresa May

Jack Taylor / Getty


  • MPs reject the 2 Brexit bill amendments put forward by the House of Lords.
  • Just 2 Conservative MPs rebel against PM May
  • Lords accept the Commons decision and let the bill pass on Monday night.
  • May will officially have the authority to trigger Article 50.

LONDON — Theresa May has been given the power to trigger Article 50 — the two-year formal process by which Britain will leave the EU — after both houses of parliament voted to pass the Brexit bill unamended.

MPs overturned two amendments to the Brexit bill that would have protected the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and ensured that parliament had a "meaningful vote" on the terms of Brexit at the end of the Article 50 negotiating process.

The Lords then accepted the Commons' decision on Monday night, paving the way for Prime Minister May meet her timetable and invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

Despite talk of a potential Tory rebellion in the Commons, both amendments were rejected with relative ease.

Just two Tory MPs rebelled on the issue of EU citizens rights and none at all on the issue of a meaningful final vote. Six Labour rebels joined with the Conservatives to vote down both amendments.

Brexit minister David Davis insisted that the government's verbal promise to protect the residence rights of EU citizens in the UK was "binding" and rendered that particular amendment unnecessary.

"When a minister gives an undertaking at this despatch box it is binding commitment," Davis told MPs during a debate on the issue of whether the rights of EU citizens would be guaranteed.

Earlier in the day, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn failed to attend an "emergency rally" outside parliament after only around 100 supporters turned up to protest against the government's refusal to accept the EU citizens amendment.

His decision to whip Labour MPs in favour of passing the Brexit bill, means only the Liberal Democrats the SNP and the Green party's one MP voted against.

"Labour had the chance to block Theresa May’s hard Brexit but chose to sit on their hands," Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said.

"Tonight there will be families fearful that they will be torn apart. Shame on the government for using people as chips in a casino, and shame on Labour for letting them."

Brexit secretary David Davis said the vote meant the government could "get on with the job" of negotiating Britain's exit from the EU.

"Parliament has today backed the government in its determination to get on with the job of leaing the EU and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member states," Davis said.

"We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation.

"We have a plan to build a Global Britain and take advantage of its new place in the wolrd by forging new trade links.

"So we will trigger Article 50 by the end of this month as planned and trigger an outcome that works in the interests of the whole of the UK."

Independence

The passing of the bill came on the same day that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to call a second referendum on Scottish Independence.

The Scottish National Party leader told a press conference in Edinburgh on Monday morning that Britain's imminent exit from the European single market gives her the mandate to give Scots another chance to vote on independence.

Sturgeon has long promised to give Scotland another referendum if May refuses to compromise on a number of issues regarding Brexit, perhaps the biggest being the Scottish First Minister's desire to keep Scotland in the single market.

May said that another independence referendum would bring "economic uncertainty at the worst possible" time. A spokesperson for the prime minister said: 

"Only a little over two years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom in a referendum which the Scottish government defined as a 'once in a generation' vote. The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.

"The Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people in Scotland."

Sturgeon wants the referendum to take place sometime between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, which would be midway through Britain's departure talks with the European Union.

NOW WATCH: The EU's top negotiator explains how he thinks Article 50 is going to work

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