Tuesday saw the continued debate on and a vote in the Scottish Parliament seeking authority for the Scottish Government to apply to the UK Government for a section 30 Order under the Scotland Act 1998 to allow a further Scottish Independence Referendum to be held. The Scottish Government's motion, as amended, was approved by the Parliament. With the support of the Greens, it was agreed by 69 - 59 votes. The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties all voted against the motion. This outcome was not unexpected.
On Tuesday evening we saw a photo of Prime Minister Theresa May signing the article 50 letter in Downing Street, ready to be despatched to Brussels for delivery the next day.
Wednesday found the UK Ambassador (and the letter) together with Donald Tusk in a rather awkward looking photo shoot in Brussels where the letter was handed over. The Prime Minister then advised the House of Commons it had been delivered and the process of leaving the EU had clearly begun, to the pleasure of some Members and the unhappiness of others. Some commentators read the letter as conciliatory and others as full of hidden (or not so hidden) threats.
Thursday brought another White Paper entitled "Legislating for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union" and another statement to the House but this time from David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. This might have come as a surprise to some who might have been wrongly expecting the Bill itself based on some loose use of language from parts of the media. The Bill will be formally announced in the Queen's speech in May and is likely to be introduced in the autumn.
Thursday evening brought another slightly less formal and definitely less awkward photo shoot, but this time at Bute House and of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon making final touches to the letter she intended to send to the UK government advising them of the Scottish Parliament vote and asking them to facilitate a further independence referendum by delivering a section 30 Order.
Friday has arrived at last and we have the Draft Guidelines prepared by Donald Tusk as President of the European Council for the EU27, the remaining Members of the EU, as an initial response to the UK's article 50 notification letter. This is for discussion and agreement by the EU27 presumably before or at their meeting on the 29th April. Ms Sturgeon's letter has landed on a desk in Downing Street this morning.
So what has all this fevered activity achieved and are we any clearer about our way through the constitutional and practical mists of uncertainty? The answer is a good legal response; yes and no!
There are a few positive messages to be taken from the article 50 exchanges. Both parties wish to remain friends after this negotiation is over. Clarification of the future position of EU and UK citizens who are away from home is a priority. The unique position of the island of Ireland is recognised and both sides wish to avoid a hard border if that can be achieved. Both recognise there can be no "cherry picking" to retain bits of the Single Market.
What will be of more concern to the UK is a clear statement in the EU guidance that the integrity of the EU excludes a sectoral approach to negotiation. A departing UK cannot enjoy the same benefits as a member. The negotiations will be a single package so that until all is agreed, nothing is agreed. That approach might be a problem if negotiations break down and we end up toppling over the metaphorical cliff.
What will be of most concern, at least at this stage, are one substantive and one process issue. The financial settlement to deal with the "rights and commitments the United Kingdom derives from commitments undertaken as Member State" must be dealt with up front. That seems to be a red line.
Once the money is agreed, arrangements for an "orderly withdrawal" may feature and a framework for the future relationship may form part two of the negotiations with a view to being finalised post Brexit. Transitional arrangements, subject to constraints, may feature as well. If this all sounds quite vague then that is probably because it is. However, what is clear is that the EU does not envisage the parallel negotiations the UK was hoping for.
Nobody is suggesting that matters cannot all be achieved in the two year timescale, but to be realistic on a practical level that is going to be challenging.
The Great Repeal Bill White Paper
The White paper has provided some clarity. It will carry out the repeals, and other technical steps necessary to turn EU legislation into UK legislation. It will be a transfer exercise to make the legislation work and any substantive policy amendments will be done later. It will clarify the ongoing status of the Court of Justice of the EU decisions post Brexit.
The paper recognises this is all going to be a complex exercise and will also affect the devolved legislatures. While the paper confirms currently devolved competencies will continue, it leaves open the possibility of competencies currently overseen by the EU being overseen instead at a UK level. This is likely to be a matter of contention with the devolved governments.
Wide Henry VIII powers to amend primary legislation using secondary legislation will be employed as anticipated. There may be certain restrictions on the powers. The devil will however be in the detail when we have draft clauses to consider.
Independence Referendum 2
The vote and its result were expected. The PM and the Secretary of State for Scotland have clearly stated "now is not the time". The First Minister has sent a strong letter to the PM setting out her position. Everyone is expecting a negative response including Ms Sturgeon, who has said that if "now is not the time" is the answer then she will inform the Scottish Parliament "of the steps she intends to take to ensure that progress is made towards a referendum", presumably when it returns after Easter.
Overall it is certainly true that we have a lot more information that we did on Monday morning. Some questions have been answered and some timetables are clearer. However new questions have been raised, many of the existing questions remain unanswered and different uncertainties have arisen. We are certainly now heading towards Brexit but there is a lot of legal paperwork to get through before we reach 29th March 2019 and Brexit day.