By Miltos Skemperis

As the Queen gives her royal assent to the Brexit bill, Theresa May is replying to Sturgeon’s demand for a Scottish referendum with a simple, but ambiguous, “Now is not the time.”

Brexit bill 

Queen Elizabeth granted today the royal assent to the article 50 bill, giving the legal powers to Theresa May to start the negotiations for exiting the European Union. It is yet unknown when the British prime minister will invoke the article, however Downing Street officials have implied that it will be later in this month.

Speaker John Bercow announced in the House of Commons that the bill had been signed into law by the Queen. David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU, commented that “by the end of the month we will invoke article 50, allowing us to start the negotiations that will build a new positive partnership with our friends and neighbours in the EU, as well as taking a step out into the world, as a truly global England.” Davis, in a hearing yesterday in the House of Commons, appeared unprepared to answer what the estimated costs of Brexit would be, if the United Kingdom doesn’t strike a deal with its European counter-parts. Asked if there is an assessment of the cost, he said that the last one was made around Summer 2016, just before the referendum.

If Theresa May triggers article 50 later in March, it means that EU leaders won’t have enough time to draft their formal response before 6th April, the date of the scheduled European Council summit. The next scheduled summit is in the end of May, which means that formal negotiations could start as late as June. EU leaders have made clear that after making a deal, they will require a 6-month period to ensure that it can be ratified by the Commission and the Parliament. 

Scottish referendum

Brexit is not the only problem that Theresa May is facing. The prime minister, in an interview for ITV, rejected the timetable that Nicola Sturgeon set for a second Scottish independence referendum. She ruled out Sturgeon’s demand for a referendum between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019. Theresa May said to ITV that “now is not the time. It would be unfair to Scotland and its people to be asked to make a crucial decision without the needed information.” May seems to be echoing a series of opinion polls showing the majority of Scots do not want another referendum before Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon replied immediately to Theresa May’s comments. Sturgeon, via Twitter, said that “this is clear proof that the Tories are afraid of the Scottish people. Blocking Scotland’s right to choose when the Brexit terms are clear, this would be undemocratic.”

 May’s maybe later to Scotland, or vote another day attitude, is as vague as her own Brexit plans.