London – British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed on Tuesday the parliament’s backing of the government’s Brexit bill, saying it will be a “defining moment” for the whole country.
The PM told MPs: “This will be a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge the new relationship with Europe and a new role for ourselves in the world.”
The prime minister said her timetable of triggering formal negotiations by the end of March remained on track.
“I will return to this House before the end of this month to notify when I have formally triggered Article 50 and begun the process through which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union,” she told the House of Commons.
Scotland’s demand for an independence referendum will make the negotiations’ strategy harder, according to a number of political observers.
May said that after gaining parliament’s approval, the bill would receive formal assent from Queen Elizabeth II “in the coming days”.
According to May, the Brexit would “work for the whole of the United Kingdom,” adding: “That’s why we have been working closely with the devolved administrations, including the Scottish government – listening to their proposals and recognizing the many areas of common ground, such as protecting workers rights and our security from crime and terrorism.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted an independence referendum to be held between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of the following year. She announced that a second independence referendum was needed to protect Scottish interests in the wake of the Brexit.
“So this is not a moment to play politics and create uncertainty – it’s a moment to bring our country together, to honor the will of the British people and shape for them a better Britain,” May commented on the referendum.
May has the capacities to refuse the Scottish referendum and block it, but it could risk instigating Scottish nationalists’ tendencies for independence.
With independence, Scotland hopes it could maintain its close ties with the EU.
Sturgeon said her concerns about May’s plan had been met with a “brick wall of intransigence” especially since her country wants to stay in Europe’s single market, while Britain wants out in order to cut immigration.
The European Commission informed Scotland that in case of independence, it would have to reapply as a new nation.
In 2014, Scotland had a referendum where 55 percent voted to reject independence. But polls revealed that in case of a new referendum, the results will be close.
In June 23, Scotland voted for staying in the EU by 62 percent to 38, but the national vote was 52 percent in favor of Brexit.
Facing nationalist movements across the continent, EU is determined that no other country follows Britain and seeks exiting the union.
Regarding this matter, German lawmaker Manfred Weber, who also leads the European People’s Party, said that it is obvious that Britain is deep in splits and May was not able to unite the whole nation around her. He also referred to the issue of Northern Ireland where the population voted against the Brexit.
Quentin Peel, associate fellow with the Europe program at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank, believes that the country is entering unchartered territory now.
“We don’t know which way it’s going and we don’t know if actually the Scottish threat combined with a possible threat of a Northern Ireland rebellion as well might actually at the end of the day stop Theresa May doing what she’s doing,” he said.
The Daily Telegraph expected a new battle for Britain.
As the negotiations close in, May could face increased opposition from her camp.
Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, told AFP that the unity of the Tory party is shakier than it seems.