MPs remove final obstacle to Brexit negotiations

Amendments by House of Lords to bill authorising triggering of article 50 overturned

Britain’s Houses of Parliament: MPs voted down a Lords amendment giving parliament a veto over the outcome of the Brexit talks by 331 votes to 226, a majority of 45. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s Houses of Parliament: MPs voted down a Lords amendment giving parliament a veto over the outcome of the Brexit talks by 331 votes to 226, a majority of 45. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

 

MPs on Monday night removed the final obstacle in the way of starting formal Brexit negotiations, overturning two amendments from the House of Lords to a bill authorising Theresa May to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Downing Street on Monday ruled out triggering the article this week, and the prime minister is now expected to do so during the week beginning March 27th.

MPs voted down a Lords amendment giving parliament a veto over the outcome of the Brexit talks by 331 votes to 226, a majority of 45. They rejected an amendment committing the government to guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals by 335 votes to 287, a majority of 48.

Brexit secretary David Davis told MPs that the government was committed to protecting the rights of EU citizens now living in Britain, but that there must be a reciprocal guarantee for British nationals in the EU.

“We take very seriously – I take very seriously – our moral responsibility to all four million UK and EU citizens. The prime minister has been clear that this issue will be one of the top priorities for the immediate negotiations. I also welcome the encouraging words from across the channel, particularly from Poland and Sweden, which fill me with confidence that we will reach a swift agreement with our European partners,” he said.

Mr Davis said that Parliament will have an opportunity to vote on the final Brexit deal but it could not be allowed to veto the decision to leave the EU or to prevent the prime minister from walking away from negotiations without a deal.

“The government will be undertaking these negotiations and must have the freedom to walk away from a deal that sets out to punish the UK for a decision to leave the EU, as some in Europe have suggested. Of course, we are seeking a mutually beneficial new relationship, which we believe can and will work for everyone, but tying the government’s hands in this way could be the worst way of trying to achieve that deal,” he said.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer accused the government of using EU nationals living in Britain as a bargaining chip in the forthcoming negotiations.

“Once the whole argument about reciprocal rights is about bargaining, it is saying we will not do what we should do by this group of people until we get something in return for it. That is bargaining,” he said.