The Brexit bill has been approved this Monday by Parliament with no opposition from Labour, allowing U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union.
The vote came after the House of Lords backed down in their attempts to amend the bill following an earlier vote in the Commons.
MPs rejected a Lords amendment to guarantee the status of EU nationals resident in the United Kingdom by 335 votes to 287.
They also overturned a second amendment, which would have required the Government to grant Parliament a vote on the Brexit deal eventually secured by Mrs May, by 331 votes to 286.
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“Parliament has today backed the Government in its determination to get on with the job of leaving the EU and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member states”, said Brexit Secretary David Davis after the vote in Parliament.
“We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation,” he added.
After saying it was “deeply disappointing” the Government had refused to give ground but that it was “only the start of the process”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned that his party, “at every stage, will challenge the Government’s plans for a bargain basement Brexit with Labour’s alternative of a Brexit that puts jobs, living standards and rights first.”
On Monday, widespread speculation that May would trigger the Brexit and begin negotiations as early as Today Tuesday but late on Monday her press officers poured cold water over smoking rumours stressing that the PM has always aimed for the end of March.
May’s official spokesman reiterated the PM had always said she would trigger Article 50 by the end of this month and added, “I’ve said ‘end’ many times but it would seem I didn’t put it in capital letters strongly enough.”
According to the British news outlet Standard, the historic announcement of the beginning of the Brexit process will happen following the special of the remaining 27 member states in Rome on March 25 to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Union.
The EU counterpart’s of Theresa May were prepared to hear the British leader trigger the Brexit this week by pencilling in April 6 as the date for a meeting of the 27 remaining EU leaders to respond to the U.K.’s process of separation from the European Union. This meeting will be pushed back until later that same month, according to the Standard.
Second Vote for Independence
In the meantime, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to hold a second independence vote before the estimated date for the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union in spring of 2019.
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Sturgeon’s spokesperson insisted to the press that the unexpected announcement was not synchronised to happen at the same time Article 50 was to be triggered.
Top Issues to Be Negotiated
One top issue to be negotiated will be the fine of about 60 billion pounds the European Commission wants the U.K. to pay for leaving the EU bloc.
The proceeds are expected to be used to pay for the pensions of U.K. citizens who work in the European institutions, for the relocation costs of certain European authorities out of London, and for projects in the U.K. that have already seen funding approved by the EU.
U.K. lawmakers are not too keen to accept the country pays such a huge penalty.
Many European officials still find it difficult to believe the Brexit is a reality and for example just last week European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he thinks the U.K. will come back as a member of the EU in the future.
For now, the British pound held steady even after rumours of the Brexit process being triggered emerged, but currency experts believe that when negotiations do start the sterling pound will become volatile.
“We are viewing sterling as a very vulnerable currency going into the start of Brexit. Very crucial will be the tone of the EU at the commencement of the negotiations. Any confirmation that the EU will take a hard line and/or further indications that the start of trade talks will be delayed until the end of the year are likely to be most worrisome for the pound,” Jane Foley, senior forex strategist at Rabobank, told CNBC via email.
“We see EUR/GBP reaching 0.89 in the second half of the year, with upside risk to the forecast,” she added.
From now until the end of this month, all eyes will be on Theresa May to see when exactly she decides to trigger Article 50.