Brexit bill Becomes Law, Allowing Britain to Leave the EU
(dpa) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit legislation was given royal assent on Thursday, paving the way for Britain to begin the formal withdrawal from the European Union on January 31.
The formal approval from Queen Elizabeth II followed final passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill through the British parliament late Wednesday.
Johnson said the approval of the bill had pushed the country over the “Brexit finish line,” and would allow it to “move forwards as one United Kingdom.”
“At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Johnson said.
“Now we can put the rancour and division of the past three years behind us and focus on delivering a bright, exciting future – with better hospitals and schools, safer streets and opportunity spread to every corner of our country.”
The European Parliament’s constitutional committee also signed off the withdrawal agreement on Thursday ahead of the final vote by EU lawmakers set for January 29.
But Scottish National Party lawmaker Ian Blackford told parliament on Thursday that the passage of Johnson’s bill had created a “constitutional crisis” for the United Kingdom.
Blackford said “something quite momentous has taken place” with royal assent for Johnson’s Brexit bill.
“This is absolutely unprecedented and […] a constitutional crisis,” he said.
“We are faced with a situation that is unprecedented when the government in Edinburgh, in Belfast and in Cardiff, has not given consent to this act of parliament.”
The devolved assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all voted to reject the legislation ahead of its passage in London.
Under devolution, the Brexit bill cannot become law without the consent of the devolved assemblies, Blackford said.
“The people of Scotland were told in 2014 [when a slim majority voted against independence], if we stayed in the UK our rights as EU citizens would be protected,” he said.
Passage of the bill and Johnson’s refusal to grant Scotland another independence referendum suggest that “the rights of the Scottish people are to be shut down,” Blackford said.
Majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland opposed Brexit in a 2016 referendum, while across the United Kingdom 52 per cent voted to leave the EU.
Johnson has vowed to negotiate new free-trade arrangements with Brussels by a December 31 deadline, ruling out any extension, but EU officials have dismissed his timetable as unrealistic.
He has refused to rule out Britain leaving the bloc without a deal on future relations, after 47 years as a member of the bloc, if negotiations cannot be completed by the end of the year.
A majority of 52 per cent of British voters opted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016.