May now clear to trigger Article 50 and begin formal Brexit process

The Prime Minister can now formally begin the Brexit process after MPs and Lords passed her Article 50 bill.

After the votes, which scrapped two amendments tabled by the House of Lords that would have guaranteed the rights of EU citizens in the UK and given Parliament a “meaningful” say on any final deal, Theresa May’s spokesman said Article 50 will be triggered by the end of this month.

The government denied it had cancelled plans to enact Article 50 as early as this week after being wrong footed by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who yesterday called for a second Scottish independence referendum.

Sturgeon blamed the UK government’s hard Brexit position, which includes leaving the single market and customs union, for the shock announcement.

Dominic Grieve was one of a handful of Tory MPs to abstain on voting for Article 50.

While he did not join with Labour in opposing the unammended bill, he said that the government would end up in court over its attempts to exclude MPs from the Brexit process, after the Supreme Court ruled the rights of UK citizens could not be removed without Parliament’s authority.

He said: “I can promise (the ministers), if they don’t follow proper constitutional process, there will be litigation – and that litigation will hold matters up,”

“I am afraid I’m not prepared to follow processes which appear to me to be, frankly, deranged.”

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke was also critical of the government’s Brexit approach, saying that once Article 50 has been triggered their uncompromising stand will “stare them in the face.”

He said: “Getting a good deal from the Brexit negotiations is going to take much more than Boris Johnson suggesting the UK should not pay any heed (or cash) to the EU, Michael Gove talking up the chances of minor trade deals and the PM telling the EU she will turn the UK into a ‘pound shop Britain’ if she doesn’t get her way.”