The end of the beginning
The House of Commons today starts to debate the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in its Chamber. Many people would never have thought this would ever happen, but today the elected representatives of the United Kingdom look to enact the will of the people expressed on June 23rd 2016.
This is not, however, the end. It is not the beginning of the end. Merely, the end of the beginning.
First, the Government will have to persuade other MPs that the Bill they are proposing should go through unamended. For this, they have opposition. The SNP have tabled at least 50 amendments and want to frustrate the Government’s desired Bill by requiring it to consult the devolved assemblies.
Second, there are a number of Labour backbench MPs that will join the SNP in trying to frustrate the Government’s desire to evoke Article 50. Interestingly, a number of these Labour MPs voted for the referendum and are now stating that they now want to block the result.
These two issues shouldn’t be a problem for the Government, as neither the SNP nor the Labour Party have the numbers in the House of Commons. However, the Bill will then go to the House of Lords. This is a famously europhile chamber, with many peers that deeply resent the UK leaving the EU. Indeed, some are there because of their work inside the EU. As a result, they could derail or delay the process.
If the Bill gets through the House of Lords, and the Government has suggested some creative ways of ensuring it does, it will go to the Queen to receive the Royal Assent. Her Majesty’s signature accepting the Bill shouldn’t pose a problem.
After the Bill receives Royal Assent, it will become an Act. Then of course the real negotiations start with the European Council.
We’ll keep you posted. But, in the meantime, let’s give a big cheer for those MPs that will be voting for this Bill. They are listening to the people of Britain and are backing them as a result.