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Brexit: Government suffers defeat in Lords over plan to start negotiations to leave EU

The Government has suffered a damaging defeat in the Lords over its plan to start negotiations on leaving the EU at the end of this month.

Ignoring stern warnings not to amend the Brexit Bill, peers backed a Labour-led move to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK by a majority of 102.

Voting was 358 to 256 after a passionate and sometime ill-tempered three-hour committee stage debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

The defeat means the Bill, which was passed unamended by the Commons, will now have to return there for further consideration by MPs.

It could put at risk Theresa May's timetable for triggering Article 50 to begin Brexit talks by the end of March.

Ministers have said they will seek to overturn the defeat, Government sources said.

The Government described the first defeat to be inflicted on the Bill during its passage through Parliament as "disappointing" but made clear they were determined to reverse it in the lower chamber.

A spokesman for the Brexit Department said: "The Bill has a straightforward purpose - to enact the referendum result and allow the Government to get on with the negotiations.

"Our position on EU nationals has repeatedly been made clear. We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals living in other member states, as early as we can."

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