The EU Withdrawal Bill is expected to receive the royal assent today, making it legally possible for Theresa May to trigger article 50 and start the process of Britain's exit. But as there appears to be some reluctance to do so on or around the Ides of March, the prime minister may not pull the trigger until the end of the month. The last obstacles were cleared in both houses of parliament when the Lords' rebellion on two key issues crumbled. The peers voted not to press its call for EU nationals living in the UK to be given a unilateral guarantee of continued residency and meekly fell into line over the government's negation of democracy in denying parliament power of veto over the terms of any deal. The Commons had earlier approved the bill, unamended, by comfortable majorities.

In Edinburgh, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, after weeks of prevarication, finally announced her intention to seek permission for a second independence referendum between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019 before the Brexit negotiations are completed. The national (in the sense of British) press was mostly hostile. The Times reported that EU leaders had 'poured cold water' on her hope of early membership for an independent Scotland. The Telegraph splashed across its front page May's statement that 'another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time' and maintained that the prime minister had 'ruled out' a pre-Brexit referendum. The Guardian agreed that May had 'rejected' Sturgeon's demand, adding that the first minister had received a 'stinging rebuke' from the prime minister. The Mail called Sturgeon's move 'cynical'. The red-top tabloids were unimpressed one way or the other, concentrating instead on Prince William's absence from a Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey in favour of a skiing holiday in some Swiss resort.

Canada's girl guides cancelled all travel to the United States because of Trump's new travel ban and the fear that some of their members would be left behind at the border. Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, in another of his bizarre pronouncements, said he didn't 'really' think that Obama had personally tapped Trump's telephone and that quotation marks around 'wiretapped' in the offending tweet justified the president's use of the word. In Malaysia, where sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a severe caning, Walt Disney withdrew its new film, 'Beauty and the Beast', from general release after the local censors had objected to a 'gay moment'. The diplomatic row between The Netherlands and Turkey rumbled on. The prospect of the far-right blond becoming the Dutch prime minister seemed to have receded somewhat. A Brazilian footballer who murdered his girlfriend and had her body fed to his dogs was promptly signed up by a club on his release from prison.

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