Brexit bill swiftly gets royal assent
Theresa May now has the legal authority to trigger Article 50
17 March, 2017
Queen Elizabeth II gave Royal Assent to the Brexit bill last Thursday, paving the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and to start the process of the UK divorce with the EU.
The Brexit bill was passed by both houses of parliament last Monday after peers in the House of Lords gave up on an uphill effort to add two significant amendments before it became legislation. One amendment sought to guarantee the residence rights of EU citizens living in Britain, while the other wanted parliament to be given a "meaningful vote" on the terms of Brexit at the end of the two-year Article 50 negotiations.
Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Theresa May said she would trigger Article 50 "before the end of the month". Monday, 27 March, is the most likely date for notification, the British media suggest. The Prime Minister has described it as a "defining moment" for the country but the negotiations that will take place with the EU over the next two years promise to be bitter and bloody, the media also note.
Brexit Secretary David Davis admitted last Wednesday that he had not yet calculated the likely cost of Britain dropping out of the European Union with no exit deal in place. "I cannot quantify that in detail yet. I may well do in about a years' time," the cabinet minister said. May has previously said “no deal is better than a bad deal”, but the Treasury has warned that crashing the UK out of the EU without a bargain could lead to economic collapse.
Theresa May faces another big challenge as Scotland's leader Nicola Sturgeon announced last Monday she will seek new referendum on independence from the UK. First Minister, who heads the pro-independence Scottish National Party, said she will seek the constitutional authority to hold another referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, by which time the terms of Britain's withdrawal would be known. Sturgeon said the Brexit vote meant there had been a "material change in circumstances" since independence was rejected by Scottish voters by 55 percent to 45 percent in 2014. Scotland voted against Brexit in last June's referendum, preferring to remain in the EU.
Even though EU membership is the central rallying point for the SNP’s independence campaign, it is not clear that an independent Scotland can stay in the Union, observers believe. A European commission spokesman indicated after Sturgeon’s statement that any newly independent country would have to negotiate to join the EU, referring to the position adopted by the former Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, known as “Barroso Doctrine”.