United Kingdom: Brexit bill passes, clearing way for exit procedures to begin
What is the change? The government’s Brexit bill passed its final vote Monday night in Parliament, authorizing the government to trigger Article 50 Brexit procedures later in March. Neither of two amendments – one to protect existing EU migrants’ rights to remain in the U.K. and the second to guarantee Parliament a vote on the eventual Brexit deal – have been successful.
What does the change mean? The bill could receive “royal assent,” a final formality in the legislative process, as early as Tuesday. While Prime Minister Theresa May could theoretically invoke Article 50 as soon as assent is granted, she is expected to wait until the last week in March to officially notify the EU that the U.K. is withdrawing from the bloc.
- March 17-31, 2017: U.K. to trigger Article 50, starting a two-year clock on negotiating a deal for EU-U.K. relations post-Brexit.
- September 30, 2018: EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s deadline for finalizing terms of the U.K.’s exit from the EU.
- March 15-31, 2019: Two-year deadline for concluding Brexit negotiations under European law protocols.
- Approximately April 2019: The U.K.’s exit from the EU, following ratification by all EU member states.
Background: Late Monday evening, the House of Commons voted down two amendments that the House of Lords had proposed with backing from both Liberal and Labour peers as well as other prominent Remain supporters. One amendment would have guaranteed the status of EU citizens already living in the U.K.; the other would have given Parliament a vote on any final deal – or no deal – that is negotiated between the U.K. and the EU before the final separation. The bill then returned to the House of Lords, which recognized its inability to influence proceedings further and passed it without further amendments.
BAL Analysis: Formal Brexit procedures can now begin by the end of the month as anticipated, but defeat of the amendments means that the long-term status of Europeans remains unclear. May’s unwillingness to guarantee the right to remain ahead of official negotiations, despite strong moral and political arguments to do so, offers little comfort to the 3.2 million Europeans currently living in the U.K., although it is hoped that the government will adhere to its stated goal of seeking resolution of their status early in the two-year negotiation process.
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