London: Queen Elizabeth II today gave her Royal Assent to the Brexit trigger bill, empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to invoke Article 50 at any time to begin Britain’s exit talks from the European Union. Speaker John Bercow announced the historic milestone in the House of Commons, prompting cheers from ruling Conservative Party MPs.
“Her Majesty has signified her royal assent,” he said. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill had been passed by MPs and Lords in Parliament earlier this week.
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.
“My message is very clear – now is not the time. I’ve explained the reasons why. I think we should be working to get the right deal for Scotland and the UK with our future partnership with the EU,” May told ITV News channel. “It would be unfair to Scotland, the people of Scotland at the moment that they would be being asked to make a crucial decision without the information they need to make that decision,” she added.
Sturgeon has attacked May 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 said the Queen has given the government the formal power to trigger article 50 and deliver on the will of the British people. “By the end of the month we will invoke article 50, allowing us to start our negotiations to build a positive new partnership with our friends and neighbours in the European Union, as well as taking a step out into the world as a truly global Britain,” he said.