MPs to begin debate on Brexit negotiations Bill

Updated: 

MPs are to begin debating the Bill which will give Theresa May the go-ahead to launch formal negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union.

Government business managers have set aside two days for the second reading debate for the EU (Notification on Withdrawal) Bill - which will conclude with a vote on Wednesday evening.

With Labour having said they will not seek to block the triggering of Article 50 - marking the start of the two-year Brexit process - the Bill is expected to clear its first parliamentary hurdle relatively easily.

It will then return to the Commons next week for the committee stage - when the real parliamentary battle is expected to take place as opposition parties attempt to push through a series of amendments.

The Government has kept the Bill to just two tightly-drawn clauses in the an attempt to limit the scope for amendments.

Ministers were forced to table legislation after the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling that the Government must obtain the approval of Parliament before it could begin negotiating Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

They remain confident, however, that the Bill will complete its passage through Parliament - including the House of Lords - in time for the Prime Minister to meet her March 31 deadline for invoking Article 50.

In Dublin on Monday, Mrs May said MPs would face a very clear choice when they came to go through the division lobbies on Wednesday.

"The people of the United Kingdom voted on June 23 last year. They voted in a referendum that was given to them overwhelmingly by Parliament," she said.

"The people spoke in that vote. The majority voted to leave the European Union. I think it is now the job of the Government to put that into practice.

"I hope that when people come to look at the Article 50 Bill they will recognise it is a very simple decision: do they support the will of the British people or not?"

Brexit Secretary David Davis, who will pilot the Bill through the Commons, said: "It is not a Bill about whether or not the UK should leave the EU, or how it should do so.

"It is simply about implementing a decision already made, a point of no return already passed. We asked the people of the UK if they wanted to leave the EU; they decided they did."

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has been struggling to contain a revolt by some Labour MPs - the majority of whom voted against Brexit - over his decision to impose a three-line whip ordering them to vote for the Bill at second reading.

Shadow ministers Jo Stevens and Tulip Siddiq quit in protest, and other frontbenchers - particularly those in constituencies which voted for Remain - have said they will oppose the Bill, even if it costs them their jobs.