The Article 50 bill, which allows Prime Minister Theresa May to
trigger Brexit, has completed its journey through Parliament and
received Royal Assent yesterday, passing it into law as the EU
(Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.
May has committed to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by
the end of the month, which will kick-start the two year process by
which the UK will negotiate its exit from the EU. This will involve
the government beginning exit talks with the other 27 EU
While the government has set out 12 negotiating objectives, It
is yet to be seen what strategy it will pursue, the extent to which
the objectives are achievable, and what the shape of the UK's
exit agreement will ultimately be. It is notable that the Act does
not include an amendment proposed by the House of Lords
guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens currently living in Britain.
Other member states have made clear that negotiations on future
trade deals will not begin until Britain has left the Union.
May has been open about her willingness to walk away from Brexit
negotiations, stating "no deal is better than a bad
deal". Despite this, Donald Tusk the President of the European
Council, believes that if the UK fails to reach an agreement on a
future relationship with the EU, it will be worse for Britain than
for the remaining 27 member states.
This is the first time since the government's court defeat
over the right to trigger Article 50 that Theresa May has had full
legal control of Brexit. Even so, important constitutional
questions remain. Although the Notification of Withdrawal Act does
not require a further Act of Parliament to ratify the outcome of
any negotiations, there is a question mark over whether, as a
matter of law, a further Act may ultimately be necessary. Gina
Miller, the successful claimant in the Article 50 case, has vowed
to bring the matter back before the courts if the government does
not give Parliament a say on any final deal. Given that the Supreme
Court held in that case that only Parliament can take away from
British citizens the rights that flow from EU membership, her
threats should be taken seriously.
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Theresa May's letter has been delivered and like it or not the UK is on the way out of Europe with still no clarity as to what the status of British ex-pats living in other European countries actually is.
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