The British Parliament has finally passed the ‘Brexit Bill’, making way for Prime Minister Theresa May to begin negotiations for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
The House of Commons, on March 13, rejected amendments by the House of Lords (335 to 286 votes), which had requested the government to protect the status of nationals of the European Union, three months the start of the Brexit talks. The Upper House also rejected calls for the Parliament to have meaningful vote on any deal regarding Brexit (331 to 286 votes).
This lead to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was passed by the Lower House without any changes being made.
Subsequently, the bill was passed, unchanged, by the House of Lords, after peers voted 274 to 118 votes, not challenging the House of Common’s decision regarding whether the Parliament should have a veto on the terms of exit.
The MPs had earlier rejected guarantees over the status of EU residents in the UK, in response to which the House of Lords also decided not to reinsert the guarantees back into the bill.
The bill is now awaiting the Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth II, in order to become a law.
Once the Queen gives her Royal Assent, Prime Minister May could then trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, any time during the week, however, it is unlikely that she may do so. May quite possibly, could begin negotiations by the end of this month. May has, apparently, committed to trigger Article 50 by the end of March
The opposition, Labour party, had however, urged the Prime Minister to consider keeping the extremely important amendments by the Lords.
Speaking on the same, Jeremy Corby, Labour leader, said, “The issue of the rights of EU nationals to remain here is a decent human one and part of our economic success or not.”
On the other hand, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she will be seeking the Parliament’s permission to hold a referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom, a move that is being described by Downing Street as divisive. Regardless of such tensions, the Parliament went ahead and passed the bill.
As far as the future of Scotland is concerned, Sturgeon wants the said referendum to be held between the second half 2018 and the first half of 2019, in order for Scotland to be able to have a say in the status of its relationship with the EU, post Britain’s exit.
If Sturgeon is granted her wish, this could be the second referendum of its kind since 2014, when the majority of the region voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
Moreover, before the Commons had requested the Members of Parliament to allow EU citizens the right to stay post Brexit.
In a letter to The Times, which had been signed by Louise Richardson, the Oxford vice-chancellor, and the heads of all but three of the colleges, the academicians dismissed as insufficient the indications provided by ministers suggesting that European citizens already residing in Britain we likely to be allowed to stay.