Now is not the time to obstruct the will of the British people, Theresa May declared as MPs continued to debate the UK government's Article 50 bill on Monday (6 February).

The prime minister issued the warning as she briefed the House of Commons on an informal summit of EU leaders in Malta on Friday.

"Our European partners now want to get on with negotiations, so do I and so does this House, which last week voted by a majority of 384 in support of the government triggering Article 50," she said.

"There are, of course, further stages for the bill in committee and in the other place [the House of Lords] and it is right that this process should be completed properly.

"But the message is clear to all: This House has spoken and now is not the time to obstruct the democratically expressed wishes of the British people. It is time to get on with leaving the European Union and building an independent, self-governing, global Britain."

The comments come before another vote in the Commons on Wednesday night after the third reading of the draft legislation. MPs overwhelmingly backed the Article 50 bill by 498 votes to 116 following its second reading last Wednesday.

May also told the MPs that she relayed Donald Trump's "100% commitment" to Nato as the "cornerstone of security in the West", while the prime minister urged EU leaders to meet the military alliance's two per cent defence spending target.

"Of course there are some areas where we disagree with the approach of the new administration, we should be clear about those disagreements and about the values that underpin our response to the global challenges that we face," May added.

"But I also argued at this council that we should engage patiently and constructively with America as a friend and an ally, an ally that has helped guarantee the longest period of peace that Europe has every know.

"We should be clear that the alternative of division and confrontation would only embolden those who would do us harm wherever they would be."

But the comments come after some EU leaders, particularly French President François Hollande and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, rebuffed May after she offered a "bridge between Washington and Brussels". "I don't think there is a necessity for a bridge," Grybauskaitė said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, urged May to guarantee the residency rights of the more than three million EU nationals living in the UK.

"There is no need to wait for negotiations to begin, the government could do it now," he said. "This is not a question about Brexit, it's a question about human rights, democracy and decency towards people who have lived and worked in this country. Many of those people have been left in limbo and are very deeply concerned and distressed."

May replied: "It is absolutely right that we value the contribution that EU citizens are playing here in the UK. Their contribution to our communities, our economy, our society and to our public services.

"But I think that it is also right that we should ensure that the rights of UK citizens living in other European states."

The Article 50 bill

A bill to:

Confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty
on European Union, the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and
consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present
Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Power to notify withdrawal from the EU

(1)The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European
Union, the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the EU.

(2)This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European
5Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.

2 Short title

This Act may be cited as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act