THERESA May and her ministers are bracing themselves for a parliamentary battle with the House of Lords and are prepared for peers to attempt to rewrite the Brexit Bill, David Davis has admitted.
The Brexit Secretary said he expected a deal of parliamentary "ping pong" with the Bill being sent back and forth between the Commons and the Lords; the legislation begins its progress in the second chamber on Monday.
Mr Davis, who previously argued that the Lords had a "patriotic duty" to pass the bill, suggested he was anticipating that peers would defeat the Government in the second chamber – where it does not have a majority - and make changes to the tightly-worded legislation.
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Yet the Cabinet minister expressed confidence the elected House would prevail and legislation would clear Westminster in time for the Prime Minister to meet her deadline of triggering Article 50 and begin the formal Brexit process by the end of March.
Interestingly, however, Mr Davis downplayed the idea that Mrs May would definitely trigger Article 50, as previously mooted, at the March 9/10 EU summit, saying only he expected the starting gun to be fired at some point during next month.
Speaking at a press conference in Stockholm with Ann Linde, Sweden's EU Minister, the Secretary of State highlighted how the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill had passed through the Commons "very straightforwardly" with "very solid majorities".
He said that while the Lords would “do its job of scrutiny,” with a deal of ping pong, Mr David made clear he expected the parliamentary battle would be resolved “in good time” before the end of March.
Meantime, Ms Linde added her voice to concerns about the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, pointing out how around 100,000 Swedes lived here while 30,000 Britons resided in Sweden.
She made clear they "must not become a bargaining chip" in the Brexit negotiations.
Mr Davis said he wanted the situation of EU nationals resolved as quickly as possible, stressing: "I don't see any reason for anybody else to hold this up, once the negotiation starts properly."
He emphasised how the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and Britons living on the continent must be the first item on the agenda in the Brexit talks.
The Secretary of State's comments came as the Government was criticised by Jeremy Corbyn over its "Hunger Games approach" to people's rights.
The Labour leader was responding to a leaked EU document, which suggested other countries could adopt a tough approach because of the difficulties their citizens might face acquiring permanent rights in the UK.
A leaked document drawn up by the European Parliament's legal affairs committee suggested it would be down to each member state to decide whether or not British citizens would be allowed to carry on living within their borders after 2019.
It noted: "The fact that it appears to be particularly difficult for foreign nationals, even if married to UK nationals or born in the UK, to acquire permanent residence status or British nationality may colour member states' approach to this matter."
Mr Corbyn said the document showed "the human cost of a Tory-style Brexit," adding: "Families, jobs and homes are all in the balance."
Stephen Gethins for the SNP said the leaked paper highlighted the “terrible potential damage being done by the UK Government for British residents in Europe. The Tories can no longer treat the lives of families with such cavalier indifference and create uncertainty for so many because of their hard Tory Brexit,” he declared.
The Fife MP, who is the Nationalists’ Europe spokesman, insisted that for both EU nationals living in the EU and British nationals living in Europe, the matter had now to be “settled once and for all”.