Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday that the UK was nearing a “defining moment” as she waits a final approval from the Queen to trigger the Brexit bill after achieving the backing of both houses of Parliament. Parliament has passed the landmark ‘Brexit bill’ allowing Prime Minister May to trigger crucial negotiations for the UK’s exit from the European Union by the end of March.
The House of Lords backed down over the issues of EU residency rights and a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal after MPs voted against their suggested amendments last night.
“We remain on track with the Brexit timetable...This will be a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge the new relationship with Europe and a new role for ourselves in the world...we will be a strong, self-governing Britain,” May told the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“We were able to show how Britain will play a leading role in Europe long after we have left the EU,” she added, in reference to her visit to a European Union summit last week. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is to become law in the coming days after Queen Elizabeth II signs her assent, which means May will be free to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union (EU).
She is expected to press ahead later in March and confirmed on Tuesday that Parliament will be notified before the end of March of her decision to invoke Article 50.
The House of Commons on Monday rejected amendments by the House of Lords, calling on the government to protect the status of EU nationals within three months of the start of Brexit talks, by 335 votes to 287.
They also dismissed calls for Parliament to have a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal by 331 to 286 votes. The result came as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that she will seek parliamentary approval to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence at a time when Brexit negotiations are expected to be reaching a conclusion.
Sturgeon wants a vote to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, a move likely to be rejected by May.“This [Brexit] deal will work for everyone - that’s why we’ve been working closely with devolved governments, including the Scottish. It’s not a time to play politics, but to work together for this country,” May said in Parliament.
Formal negotiations over the timing of any referendum will not begin until after a vote in the Scottish Parliament, which is scheduled for next Tuesday. It will ask the Westminster-based UK government to grant a Section 30 order, needed for the result of the referendum to be legally binding.
The minority Scottish National Party (SNP) government in Scotland is expected to win the vote in Scotland with the support of the pro-independence Scottish Greens. “We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation,” Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis said, commenting on the development.