British parliament clears way for negotiations to leave EU

The British Parliament passed legislation allowing for the start to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May spoke at the White House on January 27. On Monday, the British Parliament passed legislation giving her free rein to pursue the British secession from the European Union. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May spoke at the White House on January 27. On Monday, the British Parliament passed legislation giving her free rein to pursue the British secession from the European Union. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

The House of Commons overturned amendments from a House of Lords bill Monday meant to allow parliament and EU citizens in the United Kingdom a final vote on leaving the EU. The agreed-upon legislation allows Prime Minister Theresa May to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, to initiate the formal procedure for the two-year secession from the EU.

U.K. voters approved leaving the EU 51.89 to 48.11 percent in a June 23, 2016 referendum.

“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,” British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said in a statement. “We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation.”

May will likely announce Britain’s formal intent to leave the EU at the end of May. With the start of a two-year countdown, May thus puts Britain under time pressure, as it leaves the economic bloc regardless of the deal it can strike. European Council President Donald Tusk said last week that the EU would respond to an Article 50 notification quickly. The European Commission will then publish formal rules for the exit talks, spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Tuesday.

With a clear route for Britain’s exit, May faces another crisis at home. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said Monday she will pursue a second independence referendum for Scotland. Although the whole of Britain narrowly approved a “Brexit,” Scotland firmly voted to remain in the EU. Sturgeon said Scotland values the EU’s single market, and she intends to hold a referendum on ending Scotland’s 300-year union with England in late 2018 or early 2019, by which time she expects the legal terms of the EU exit to be clarified. In a 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, prior to the Brexit deal, voters overwhelmingly chose to remain in the United Kingdom.

Sinn Fein, the political party in the Republic of Ireland, called for a referendum to unite Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, with the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill said Britain’s exit from the EU would prove a “disaster” for Northern Ireland, and that unification would keep it in the EU. In the House of Commons Tuesday, May rejected the idea.

After the parliamentary bill was approved, the British pound fell to an eight-week low of $1.21 against the U.S. dollar.

By Ed Adamczyk