This does not mark the end of our membership of the EU but, rather, is part of the mechanics of withdrawal.
Parliament will have its say, which is as it should be. But if anyone imagines that they can use this process to stop Brexit through the Commons or Lords then that delusion needs to be cast aside. Repeal of the ECA means this is definitely happening. Which, of course, is what the British people voted for.
What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, David Cameron addressed conference triumphant after the general election and looking forward to an EU referendum fight that most thought he would win.
Mrs May supported him. Now Mr Cameron is gone and Mrs May inherits the challenge of Brexit. Talk of choosing between a soft or hard version is nonsense; the reality is that the Government will fight for the very best terms possible and what it achieves will be partly shaped by the internal politics of the Continent.
What must be established at this juncture are parameters for those discussions and a clearer sense of direction. Repeal of the ECA provides the latter.
PM welcomes president of European Parliament to Downing StreetPlay!00:31
It is a hugely symbolic move. This was the Act that legislated for the UK’s entry into the Common Market and the increasing supremacy of European law over domestic law.
Some historic changes to British law may remain if so desired; repeal of the ECA is not what will extract us from the EU. But, of course, repeal does serve a critical practical purpose. It means EU treaties will cease to form part of our law and the European Court’s jurisdiction over us will end.
When Brexit officially happens the UK will be ready for independence the very day that it comes. Mrs May’s embrace of this programme suggests that the forces behind the Leave campaign might have significant influence. It was they who proposed repeal as part of their blueprint for Brexit towards the end of the referendum. It was also a group of senior Tories who suggested it in a recent report that argued Britain could complete withdrawal well within the two years stipulated by the triggering of Article 50.
This is heady stuff. It is bound to face opposition. The Europeans may argue that Britain has no right to repeal a bilateral treaty.
Remainers in Parliament may decide this is their chance to scupper the whole process. Both sides would do well to acknowledge the will of the people.
The last government clearly stated that it would enact the outcome of the referendum. As the process begins in earnest, it will become obvious that, to borrow a phrase associated with Margaret Thatcher, there is no alternative.
Rightly, too. An interview with Liz Truss, the new Lord Chancellor, highlights just one of the egregious facts that turned the British off EU membership.
There are around 10,000 foreign-born criminals in this country’s prisons. About 6,000 have been released and are walking the streets – the Government having failed to deport them. Incredibly, the three most common foreign nationalities in jail are from EU countries.
As the Home Affairs Committee warned before the referendum, failure to return criminals to Ireland, Poland or Romania “will lead the public to question the point of the UK remaining a member of the EU.” Miscreants can hide behind human rights laws and exploit freedom of movement.
Leaving the EU opens up possibilities when it comes to the economy, regulation, trade, justice and security. Mrs May’s bold move shows that it can even revive faith in democracy.
A revolution that began with a referendum moves on to Parliament, which now has a chance – effectively – to vote to reclaim British sovereignty. Who could possibly oppose that? Power is leant to MPs through general elections – and it ought to be jealously guarded by men and women who are where they are primarily to serve the interests of their electors.
We believe that their constituents would be best served by Brexit. So, evidently, do the voters. So let it happen. Begin the process, get the machinery going, bring this to a conclusion. The world beyond Europe is waiting for us.