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25 May 2017, 08:22 HRS IST
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  • UK Parliament clears way for key Brexit talks with EU

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17:23 HRS IST

From Aditi Khanna

London, Mar 14 (PTI)
Britain's Parliament has passed the landmark 'Brexit bill' allowing Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger crucial negotiations for the UK's exit from the European Union by the end of this month.

The result came as Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that she intended to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence at a time when Brexit negotiations are expected to be reaching a conclusion.

The House of Commons yesterday rejected amendments by the House of Lords, calling on the government to protect the status of EU nationals within three months of the start of Brexit talks, by 335 votes to 287. They also dismissed calls for Parliament to have a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal by 331 to 286 votes.

This meant that the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill passed the House of Commons without any changes.

The bill was then passed unamended by the House of Lords after peers voted by 274 votes to 118 not to challenge the Commons again over the issue of whether Parliament should have a veto on the terms of exit.

The House of Lords had already agreed not to reinsert guarantees over the status of EU residents in the UK back into the bill after they were rejected by MPs.

The bill is now expected to receive Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth II to become a law.

May could then theoretically trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty any time this week, but indications are that she is unlikely to trigger the negotiations until the end of this month.

Opposition Labour party had earlier urged May to consider keeping the "really important" Lords amendments.

"The issue of the rights of EU nationals to remain here is a decent human one and part of our economic success or not," said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Scotland's First Minister Sturgeon said she will be seeking the Parliament's permission to hold a referendum on Scotland's independence from the UK.

Sturgeon wants this referendum to be held between the second half of 2018 and first half of 2019 for Scotland to be able to have a say over its relationship with the European Union (EU) post-Brexit.

If it gets parliamentary approval, this will be the second such Scottish independence referendum after 2014, when the region had voted to remain part of the UK.

"We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation," Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis said while commenting on the development.

May has committed to triggering Article 50 by the end of March.

Brexit campaigners welcomed the "clear mandate" given to the UK government ahead of the start of official negotiations.

"Now, it's time to go into these negotiations with some ambition and support the government, so it can secure the very best deal - one that is good for the whole UK, and good for the EU too," said Tory MP and former minister Dominic Raab.

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