UK Politics

MPs vote on Brexit talks bill

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Media captionGeorge Osborne: Economy not government's Brexit priority

MPs are voting on whether to allow the government to get negotiations for Brexit under way.

With Labour also backing the European Union Bill, the Commons is expected to pass it by a large majority, with the result expected at about 1930 GMT.

But several Labour MPs are expected to rebel by voting against it. Rachael Maskell and Dawn Butler have just quit Jeremy Corbyn's front bench to do so.

The SNP also opposes the bill, which has been debated for two days.

If it passes, it will undergo more scrutiny in the Commons and Lords before passing into law.

MPs voted down an SNP amendment aimed at scuppering the bill.

Prime Minister Theresa May says she wants to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, enabling negotiations with the EU to get under way, by 31 March.

Labour shadow environment secretary Rachael Maskell and equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler announced they were resigning from leader Jeremy Corbyn's team so that they could vote against the European Union Bill.

During the debate earlier, former Chancellor George Osborne said the government had chosen "not to make the economy the priority in this negotiation, they have prioritised immigration control", while the EU's priority would be to "maintain the integrity of the remaining 27 members of the European Union".

He predicted the talks with the EU would be bitter, and a trade-off between "access and money".

Mr Osborne said he had "passionately" campaigned for a Remain vote in the EU referendum and had sacrificed his position in government for the cause.

But he said for Parliament not to allow Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to be invoked would "alienate people who already feel alienated" and could cause a "deep constitutional crisis".

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Media captionDavid Davis: Listen to the people on Brexit

Before that, MPs were told that European Commission chiefs plan to ask the UK to pay up to 60bn euros for its separation from the EU.

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK's former ambassador to the EU, told a Commons committee that the commission's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and other key figures were "openly" saying the UK's total financial liabilities would be in the order of 40 to 60bn euros.

He said the "unreasonable" figure represented a "predictably hard line".

In other Brexit news, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed a White Paper setting out her Brexit strategy would be published on Thursday.

The official document, which will include a desire to secure the status of EU nationals in the UK and Britons abroad, is separate to the Brexit bill being debated by MPs.

Mr Corbyn faces a rebellion by a number of his MPs, including several frontbenchers, while the SNP and Liberal Democrats are also promising to oppose ministers.

The Labour leader has imposed a three-line whip - the strongest possible sanction - on his MPs to back the bill, which is only two lines long.

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Media captionStarmer: Brexit bill difficult for Labour

If the vote goes the government's way, the bill will return to the Commons next week for the committee stage, when opposition parties will try to push through a series of amendments.

The bill was published last week, after the Supreme Court decided MPs and peers must have a say before Article 50 could be triggered.

It rejected the government's argument that Mrs May had sufficient powers to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.

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