Yes! Royal assent at last, and the Bill is now an Act; the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, after all the fighting. The commentary on this site will shortly be updated to “The Act – a commentary”, but for the moment is a time to reflect.
It has been three and a half long years, with one referendum, two general elections, three Prime Ministers, several unprecedented legal actions and many longstanding Conservative highfliers cast into the dustbin of history for rebellion.
Amongst those departed Members, we may wonder about their feelings. Are they content in their hearts that they stood for a principle even if they cannot remember what it was, or wistful that they threw their careers away in vain when they could have come aboard and still now be feted in golden coaches, or are they glad in retirement that their actions, however shocking at the time, brought about a general election that handed the Conservatives a majority of 80.
Next week will be ‘Brexit week’ culminating in the actual British Exit at 11 pm GMT on Friday 31 January 2020. We will wonder in future years how this point ran so close.
Today’s royal assent should not be momentous: it is just an Act of Parliament authorising the government to sign an agreement, and to put it into effect. The actual withdrawal was enacted under Theresa May; it is just that she could not make it stick even with a sovereign act, an Act of Parliament, commanding it. That is where it all went wrong for her.
The clog in the road was the unlucky Section 13, forced into the Bill by extreme Remainers and Labour. It said “all this means nothing unless your withdrawal agreement gets a vote in the Commons and a new Act of Parliament too”, and so the Withdrawal Act was neutered. All this, a year of political crisis, was forced by that one Section in the Act, a bastard child of K Starmer and D Grieve. The new Withdrawal Act repeals Section 13, and good riddance to it.
Therefore, quite inadvertently, this is a momentous moment, and the moment Brexit is finally, mercifully sealed.
- The Bill (Act): a commentary
- The Withdrawal Agreement: a commentary
- The Political Declaration: a commentary
- Westminster in the Exit endgame
- It’s not about Europe
- 101 Uses for a Dumped MP
- For the Record by David Cameron
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson: