The Article 50 bill, which allows Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Brexit, has completed its journey through Parliament and received Royal Assent yesterday, passing it into law as the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.
May has committed to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the month, which will kick-start the two year process by which the UK will negotiate its exit from the EU. This will involve the government beginning exit talks with the other 27 EU countries.
While the government has set out 12 negotiating objectives, It is yet to be seen what strategy it will pursue, the extent to which the objectives are achievable, and what the shape of the UK's exit agreement will ultimately be. It is notable that the Act does not include an amendment proposed by the House of Lords guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens currently living in Britain. Other member states have made clear that negotiations on future trade deals will not begin until Britain has left the Union.
May has been open about her willingness to walk away from Brexit negotiations, stating "no deal is better than a bad deal". Despite this, Donald Tusk the President of the European Council, believes that if the UK fails to reach an agreement on a future relationship with the EU, it will be worse for Britain than for the remaining 27 member states.
This is the first time since the government's court defeat over the right to trigger Article 50 that Theresa May has had full legal control of Brexit. Even so, important constitutional questions remain. Although the Notification of Withdrawal Act does not require a further Act of Parliament to ratify the outcome of any negotiations, there is a question mark over whether, as a matter of law, a further Act may ultimately be necessary. Gina Miller, the successful claimant in the Article 50 case, has vowed to bring the matter back before the courts if the government does not give Parliament a say on any final deal. Given that the Supreme Court held in that case that only Parliament can take away from British citizens the rights that flow from EU membership, her threats should be taken seriously.
Sign up to our email digest