Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II Thursday gave her Royal Assent to the Brexit trigger bill, authorising Prime Minister Theresa May to invoke Article 50 to begin the country’s exit negotiations from the European Union. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill had been passed by MPs and Lords in Parliament earlier this week and the monarch’s signature means May will be able to keep to her declared March-end timetable of informing the EU that Britain has invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which relates to leaving the 28-member economic bloc.
“This will be a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge a new relationship with Europe but also a new role for ourselves in the world. We will be a strong, self-governing, global Britain with control once again over our borders and our laws,” May had told the House of Commons earlier this week at the passage of the Brexit bill.
She had indicated that after a “number of processes that will take place”, she will return to the Commons before the end of the month to inform Parliament that she has invoked Article 50, after which a two-year negotiation time-frame is triggered for Britain to leave and strike a new deal with Europe as a non-member of the EU.
May is believed to be planning a tour of the UK – covering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – in an attempt to forge a united front around Britain’s exit from the EU.
The move follows Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that she would be seeking parliamentary approval for a second independence referendum in Scotland, to be held next year.
“This is not a moment to play politics, or create uncertainty or division. It is a moment to bring our country together, to honour the will of the British people and to shape for them a brighter future and a better Britain,” May had said in response.
However, Sturgeon has attacked her for ignoring the Scottish voice within the broader Brexit debate.
In contrast to England, Scotland had voted to remain within the EU in the June 2016 referendum.
“I think people should be worried about how the Prime Minister has dealt with Scotland ahead of the Article 50 negotiations. If she treats other European countries with the same inflexibility as she’s treated Scotland then I think this process is heading for the rocks,” she warned.
Meanwhile, Brexit minister David Davis admitted to the Parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee on Wednesday said that the government has not carried out a full assessment of the potential economic impact of Britain leaving the EU without a trade deal.
“The Prime Minister said no deal is better than a bad deal. Why did she say that? She said that because in the emotional aftermath of the referendum, with lots of threats of punishment deals and all the rest of it, I made it clear that actually we could manage this in such a way as to be better than a bad deal. And this is true,” he said.