The parliamentary bill empowering the British government to begin the formal process of leaving the European Union completed its passage on Wednesday night in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government succeeded in crossing the final crucial hurdle with 494 votes to 122 — a majority of 372, Xinhua news agency reported.

May sat in the chamber alongside her Brexit ministers as the historic result was announced by deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle.

It now goes to the unelected House of Lords for further scrutiny before being sent to Queen Elizabeth for royal assent.

Over the landslide victory, David Davis, the Brexit Minister said: “The decision on EU membership has been made by the people we serve. It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the Referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country.”

Britain is set to trigger Article 50, the formal procedure by which an EU member state notifies the European Council that it intends to leave the block, by the end of March.

Once triggered, Article 50 requires “divorce” negotiations to be completed within two years.

Scottish Nationalist MP Alex Salmond criticised the process and accused the government of railroading the legislation through parliament in a “disgraceful fashion”.

He said this was the first time a bill of great constitutional importance had been passed in this day since the Defence of the Realm Bill prior to World War One in 1914.

Having won on Wednesday night in the Commons, where a string of amendments were defeated, it almost guarantees that May will be on course to tell Brussels within weeks to start the EU exit process.

May’s government only introduced the briefly worded bill into parliament last week, determined to see it fast-tracked through the parliamentary process.

It has meant Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting until midnight on some occasions to complete a series of debates.

First Published | 9 February 2017 6:28 AM
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