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13 Mar, 2017 18:58

UK on brink of Brexit trigger as House of Lords passes bill unchanged

The British government has breezed past the final obstacles to Brexit negotiations, giving Prime Minister Theresa May the power to begin formal EU divorce talks after lawmakers rejected changes to the bill that would have frustrated the process.
UK on brink of Brexit trigger as House of Lords passes bill unchanged

Britain’s unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords, gave the go ahead for Brexit following two parliamentary votes earlier on Monday after the proposed amendments to the bill were thrown out by a significant majority.

All that remains for the British government to trigger Article 50 is symbolic approval from the Queen, known as Royal Assent, which could be granted as early as Tuesday morning.

Theresa May could technically trigger Article 50 on Tuesday, thus setting Brexit in motion. However, a government spokesman has hinted that EU exit talks may begin closer to the end of the month.

"We have been clear. The Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 by the end of March," a spokesman for Downing Street said, as cited by The Independent.

READ MORE: Lords defeat government again, backing second Brexit bill amendment

In the first amendment, The Lords wanted the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK after Brexit to be protected. It was defeated by 335 votes to 287.

The second amendment, seemingly the last hope for the ‘remain’ campaigners, would have provided the British parliament with a veto on Brexit once future negotiations with the EU had concluded. However, that too was defeated by 331 to 226.

May's task in negotiating Britain's EU exit was made more complicated on Monday by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanding a new independence referendum, in light of the Brexit fallout.

As May’s hand moved closer to the Brexit trigger, Sturgeon said she would stand up for Scotland’s interests and make sure the Scottish people have a choice at the end of Brexit negotiations.

READ MORE: Sturgeon announces plan for 2nd Scottish independence referendum

May is to give a statement in the Commons on Tuesday about last week’s summit of the European Council, providing an opportunity to make the announcement.