British Prime Minister Theresa May gave her first reaction Tuesday to the passing of the Brexit bill, saying it marked a defining moment for the country.
“This will be a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge a new relationship with Europe and a new role for ourselves in the world,” she said while addressing members of parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons.
Brexit, said May, would work for the whole of Britain. “We will be a strong, self-governing global Britain with control once again over our borders and our laws,” she said.
The decisions of both Houses of Parliament to agree to the crucial bill opens the door for May to officially start the process of Britain leaving the European Union.
May gave no precise indication of when she will trigger Article 50, the mechanism to start the exit process.
Instead she said it would be by the end if this month, adding Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth would be given in the next few days.
During her speech, May referred to the announcement Monday by Scotland’s First Minister, Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, who called for a second Scottish independence referendum.
May urged the SNP not to play politics or create uncertainty or division, saying people voted in 2014 in a “once in a generation” referendum to remain part of Britain.
“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 said.
May said Brexit remains on track with the timetable she set out 6 months ago, telling MPs she will return to the Commons before the end of the month to notify when she has formally triggered Article 50 and begun the process through which Britain will leave the EU.
Article 50 refers to the formal procedure by which an EU member state notifies the European Council that it intends to leave the block.
In the speech, May also welcomed the recent completion of a free trade agreement between the EU and Canada, saying such agreements will lay the foundation for Britain’s continuing trading relationships after leaving the EU.
“At the same time we will also seize the opportunity to forge our own new trade deals and to reach out beyond the borders of Europe to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, responding to May’s statement warned her “that if the wrong decisions are made, we’ll pay the price for decades to come”.
“Now more than ever we need an inclusive government that listens and acts accordingly. All the signs are that we have a complacent government,” Corbyn added.