Brexit Diary – one hurdle surmounted, but another gets more awkward

14th March 2017

Yesterday the Bill to enable the Prime Minister to make the Article 50 notification passed both Houses of Parliament.  The parliamentary page for it is here.

The Bill should soon have royal assent, if it has not already.  (Contrary to urban myth, royal assent is not given by the monarch personally, but on their behalf.)

The Bill has not been amended from the version first presented by the government.  In essence, the Bill places the government in the position it was in before the High Court ruled that it would be unlawful for the notification to be made without parliamentary approval.

(My Jack of Kent post yesterday on MPs as ‘delegates’ not ‘representatives’ is here.)

But as that obstacle to Brexit falls away, another very much came into view yesterday – not an obstacle as such to Brexit but to a ‘hard Brexit’.  This, of course, was because of the the speech of the Scottish First Minister.

This can be read here.  The First Minister announced that there will be an independence referendum when the Brexit proposals become clear.

The (intended) effect of this speech is to place UK government policy on a wire.  If the outcome of Brexit is too ‘hard’ then there will be an independence referendum for Scotland which may support independence.

(My piece on the constitutional context of the speech is at the FT.)

The one immediate effect of the speech is that the buzz about an Article 50 notification being sent this week has been quashed – the notification will now be sent by the end of this month.

Brexit continues to be fascinating.

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4 thoughts on “Brexit Diary – one hurdle surmounted, but another gets more awkward”

  1. As the future slowly comes into focus, it seems *reasonably* clear to me that within 18 months or so of the triggering of Article 50, the EU negotiators will have a menu of 3 things on the table for the UK to choose from:
    (i) A rubbish (punitive) deal (increasing the chances of Scotland leaving the UK).
    (ii) Leaving the EU with no deal (making the SNP even more likely to win independence referendum).
    (iii) Revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU (this would probably take the Scottish referendum off the table, replaced instead by another IN/OUT EU referendum).

  2. Interesting gambit by Sturgeon – forces May to negotiate with Scots independence in mind, yet Scots may vote for independence regardless of the outcome. A vote to leave the UK may be predicated purely on the vote to leave the EU.

  3. ” In essence, the Bill places the government in the position it was in before the High Court ruled that it would be unlawful for the notification to be made without parliamentary approval.”

    Only a lawyer would write that. Yes, from a legal point of view, Theresa May is in the same position as if she’d been able to trigger article 50 using the Royal Prerogative. However, from a political perspective it’s very different. She can no longer be accused of acting without a mandate from Parliament (both from the House of Commons and the House of Lords).

    However, she had been clearly put on notice over two key points; one is the rights of EU residents in the UK and the other is that Parliament will be reviewing the progress of the whatever deal is being made. The first is a bit of a non-point as nobody doubts that a deal will be done to respect the rights on existing EU residents in the UK and UK residents in the EU.

    The second is rather different. There has been a lot of nonsense written about how Parliament has given up the right to review the deal and send Theresa May back to the negotiating table. I would suggest that this is to completely misunderstand the nature of the UK parliamentary system. Prime Minister’s are always under scrutiny, and (as several have found out the hard way), if they start to lose the confidence of Parliament (and, usually more immediately), their party, then they are in danger of being dumped. There’s only so much political capital they can spend. Theresa May has used up a fair amount of it in getting the bill through without amendment. Admittedly not as much as John Major when he made ratification of the Maastricht Treaty a vote of confidence, but enough to be vulnerable.

  4. Think for a second about the all those optimistic hopes for glorious post-Brexit bilateral trade deals with the rest of the world. How can those trade deals possibly even begin to be negotiated if the Scottish independence question isn’t settled first? How can we jump off the cliff and complete Brexit before negotiations on our relationships with the rest of the world even start?

    I think this might be check-mate to Ms Sturgeon.

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