Brexit bill to get royal assent on Thurs

It paved the way for the Article 50 Bill to be given Royal Assent on Tuesday, after peers in the upper chamber also caved in, rather than deciding to "ping" it back to the Commons in a series of late-night votes.

Another amendment, to give parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal, followed on March 7.

May is now free to invoke Article 50 of the EU's key treaty, triggering two years of exit negotiations, by her self-imposed deadline of March 31.

By a vote of 335 to 287, lawmakers overturned an amendment to the government's Brexit bill inserted by the unelected House of Lords.

If she decides not to accept it, there is no deal to vote on.

The Prime Minister added: "It is a moment to bring our country together, to honour the will of the British people and to shape for them a better, brighter future and a better Britain".

"Parliament has today backed the Government in its determination to get on with the job of leaving the European Union and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member states", Brexit Secretary David Davis said in a statement after the vote.

May said Brexit remains on track with the timetable she set out six months ago, telling MPs she will return to the Commons before the end of the month to notify when she has formally triggered Article 50 and begun the process through which Britain will leave the EU. Downing Street said there was no appetite in Scotland for a rerun.

But May's victory was overshadowed by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's demand for a second referendum on the Scottish independence. It will ask the Westminster-based United Kingdom government to grant a Section 30 order, needed for the result of the referendum to be legally binding. It says that a transitional deal is favourable because it would help to "avoid disruption in financial markets" but says "the possibility of no agreement can not be excluded".

Demonstrators are gathering outside the British Parliament in advance of a vital debate on Britain's planned exit from the European Union.

How soon the European Union can proceed will largely depend on when May triggers Article 50, and if leaders can hold their summit on the preferred date of April 6.

One protester wore an oversize May puppet head.

"I am ensuring that Scotland's future ... will be decided by the people of Scotland", she told reporters at Bute House, the official residence of the Scottish first minister.

Accusing May of blocking Scotland's desire for a special deal with the EU, Sturgeon said the referendum should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 - without last-minute concessions.

"I don't know the date when the letter will arrive, but what I know is that we are ready", European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said.

May immediately condemned the plan, less than three years after Scots voted by 55 percent to reject independence, saying it would be "divisive".

  • Leroy Wright