On February 1, 2017, the U.K. House of Commons voted preliminarily by a large majority (498 votes to 114) in favor of the Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill 2016-2017 (the “Withdrawal Bill” – available here). Once the Withdrawal Bill receives royal assent, it will provide a formal mandate to the U.K. Government to notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union. This notification will, itself, start the clock on the two-year window for negotiating the U.K.’s departure, pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The large majority in favor in the House of Commons suggests that the bill will almost certainly become law, although the process for its full adoption still requires additional procedural steps. In particular, the Withdrawal Bill will now undergo in-depth discussions within a committee of the House of Commons. Following the committee stage, the Withdrawal Bill will be voted upon by the entire House of Commons, and then transmitted for a vote to the House of Lords.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has stated she intends to give formal notice under Article 50 in March 2017. Given the lengthy parliamentary procedure, combined with the continuing political debates on the precise scope of the government’s mandate, one could be forgiven for questioning whether this timetable might prove unduly optimistic.

For more information, contact: Dj Wolff, Charles De Jager, Lorenzo Di Masi, Gordon McAllister