The “Brexit Bill” has now been passed by both Houses and Article 50 TFEU may be triggered after Royal Assent has been granted. Whilst theoretically, the prime minister could invoke Article 50 as soon as Royal Assent has been granted, the BBC reports that Downing Street sources have said this will not happen immediately and the Prime Minister is expected to wait until the end of the month to officially notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave.
On Monday 13 March, the House of Commons considered the two amendments put forward by the House of Lords [HC Hansard 13 March Vol 623 Col 38], and after two hours of debate a division was called and the amendments were rejected, Ayes: 335, Noes: 287 and Ayes: 331, Noes: 286, respectively. A committee was then appointed to summarize the reasons for the rejection (i.e. “because it is not a matter that needs to be dealt with in the Bill” in both cases) and for these to be reported and communicated to the Lords.
Consideration was then given by the House of Lords [HL Hansard 13 March 2017, Vol 779 Col 1709]: There were two divisions on proposed changes to the bill. Their Lordships discussed a change that required the prime minister to guarantee the rights of EU and EEA citizens legally resident in the UK after Brexit. 135 voted for and 274 voted against, so the change was not made. Members then voted on a change requiring parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the EU. 118 members voted in favour and 274 voted against, so the change was not made.
After a total of 70 hours of debate, the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill had finally completed its journey through the Houses of Parliament; it awaits Royal Assent which has yet to be scheduled. A possible timetable is:
- By the end of March – UK triggers Article 50
- April – European Council president Donald Tusk expected to call an EU summit of the 27 leaders (without the UK) to agree to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with the UK
- After the EU 27 summit – European Commission to publish negotiating guidelines based on the mandate the EU leaders give it. The EU might say something about possible parallel negotiation on a future EU-UK trade deal
- April/May 2017 – Negotiations begin
- [23 April and 7 May – French Presidential elections]
- [24 September – German parliamentary elections]
- Autumn 2017 – The UK government is expected to introduce legislation to leave the EU and put all existing EU laws into British law – the Great Repeal bill
- October 2018 – Negotiations conclude (The Article 50 negotiations could be extended, but this is subject to the approval of the other 27 EU member states)
- Between October 2018 and March 2019 – The Houses of Parliament, European Council and European Parliament vote on any deal
- March 2019 – UK formally withdraws from the European Union.
Why as a matter of interest rather than criticism has it taken three days for the Queen to sign the Brexit bill into UK law particularly as I understand Her Majesty does not normally literally “sign” Acts of Parliament” as in “with a pen”?
To the best of my knowledge, Royal Assent is arranged and timetabled by the Government: see Royal Assent on the Parliament website. It’s ultimately a matter for the Prime Minister.