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Britain's Parliament Votes to Trigger Brexit

FILE - The passage of the Brexit Article 50 bill, shown in front of the Houses of Parliament in London, Jan. 26, 2017, starts Britain's process of leaving the European Union.

Britain moved one step closer to a final separation from the European Union late Wednesday as members of parliament voted overwhelmingly to begin the process.

Lawmakers voted 498-114 to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin Brexit negotiations.

The vote represents a victory for Prime Minister Theresa May, whose government aims to begin the two-year separation process officially at the end of next month.

The vote in parliament came after opponents of Brexit launched a court battle challenging her government's attempt to trigger the process without consulting parliament.

Last week, Britain's Supreme Court ruled the government needed parliament's approval to trigger the exit process, which begins with complex negotiations to disengage everything from matters of trade to the movement of people and fishing rights.

“History has been made,” British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tweeted late Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Feb. 1, 2017.
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Feb. 1, 2017.

Point of no return

British voters shocked the world on June 23, 2016, when they chose to leave the 28-nation EU by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. Turnout for the referendum was about 72 percent.

The bill faces more scrutiny in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

But observers said Wednesday's vote marks a point of no return for Brexit after a series of court battles, street protests, and relentless lobbying by opponents failed to stop the measure.

May has 12-point plan for exit

As the result of the vote was read Wednesday night, a member of parliament shouted “suicide.”

Some opponents had hoped for a “soft” Brexit. But last month, May erased any possibility of that when she laid out her government's 12-point plan that included leaving the European single market.

May on Wednesday is due to publish a white paper laying out her government's negotiation plan.