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13 Mar, 2017 11:21

Brexit could be invoked within days as bill faces final parliamentary hurdle

Brexit could be invoked within days as bill faces final parliamentary hurdle

Britain is poised to begin its departure from the EU as early as Tuesday, as the Brexit bill allowing Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 is approaching its final parliamentary hurdle.

MPs are likely to overturn two changes to the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill made by the House of Lords when it is debated in the Commons on Monday afternoon.

Peers amended the bill to introduce a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on the final deal with Brussels and guarantees on protections for EU nationals living in Britain.

The Lords are likely to accept the bill without their amendments, however, meaning May will have the power to trigger Article 50 as early as Tuesday, once it has received royal assent.

This means May’s plans to pursue a “hard Brexit” outside of the single market and customs union will proceed.

Labour has urged May to consider keeping the “really important” Lords amendments, saying EU citizens have been “left in limbo” waiting to hear if they will have the right to stay.

On Monday night, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will lead an “emergency demonstration” alongside migrant rights organizations.

A small number of Tory ‘Remainers’ could abstain or vote against the bill.

Nicky Morgan, former education secretary, told the BBC that she and some fellow Tory backbenchers will seek reassurances on the amendment, which calls for a meaningful vote on the final deal.

“This is not about making sure that Brexit doesn’t happen, or Article 50 isn’t triggered.

“MPs and peers have voted overwhelmingly to allow the overall Article 50 process to go through. But yes, we do think that parliament should have a say, should have an input on the final deal, whatever negotiations conclude,” she said.

Morgan said her main concern was what sort of say MPs would have if May returns from two years of EU negotiations recommending no trade deal, which would see the UK default to standard World Trade Organization (WTO) arrangements.

The government is under growing pressure to lay out plans showing what it will do if Britain leaves the EU without a preferential trade deal. On Sunday, the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee accused the government of “dereliction of duty” for failing to prepare for such an outcome.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has dismissed the concerns, saying it wouldn’t be “apocalyptic” to leave the EU without a trade deal.

“I think actually, as it happens, we would be perfectly okay if we weren’t able to get an agreement.

“I don’t think the consequences of no deal are by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend,” he said.

Trade secretary Liam Fox told Sky News that “not having a deal, of course, would be bad, but it’s not just bad for the UK; it’s bad for Europe as a whole.”

May has previously argued that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”