Brexit Finally Kicks Off as Britain Triggers Article 50 of EU’s Lisbon Treaty

UK’s Ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow (L) delivers Theresa May’s Brexit letter to European Council President Donald Tusk (R). Photo: EPA

  • UK has begun Brexit more than 9 months after 2016 referendum.
  • Unless no extensions are agreed upon, Britain should leave the EU on March 29, 2019, as per Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.
  • Uncertainty lies ahead over a wide range of issues to be discussed on the negotiations’ agenda.
  • Britain might end up a partial or associate member of the EU single market.

The United Kingdom has begun the long-anticipated procedure of its exit from the European Union, i.e. Brexit, as British Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

In their June 2016 referendum, the majority of the Brits voted in favor of Brexit (51.9% to 48.1%). Britain joined the EU (then the European Community) back in 1973.

A little over 9 months after the Brexit referendum and after 44 years of British EU membership, the formal two-year process of the UK’s exit from the European Union has arrived.

Finally Brexiting

Brexit started on Wednesday, as promised, after Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow hand-delivered a six-page letter from British Prime Minister Theresa May to EU Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels. (Read the full text of the Brexit letter here.)

In her letter, May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which stipulates the conditions for an EU member state’s exit from the Union, the BBC reported.

“It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country,” the British Prime Minister is going to tell the House of Commons of the British Parliament in a statement later on Wednesday.

“For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together,“ May is going to declare.

She is also going to promise to “represent every person in the whole United Kingdom” during the negotiations – including EU nationals, whose status after Brexit has yet to be settled.

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, which includes the leaders of all EU member states, will later make a statement responding to May’s letter.

A separate statements is also to be released on behalf of the remaining 27 EU member states.

Before triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty on Wedneday, on Tuesday night, May spoke over the phone with Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier on Tuesday, May said she wanted a “deep and special partnership” with the EU.

A European Union flag flutters as pro-EU migrants protest outside parliament in London, Britain, 20 February 2017. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Issues on the Agenda

Under Article 50, the UK and the EU will have two years to reach an exit agreement but are also allowed to extent the talks. If they do not prolong them, the UK is going to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019.

The actual Brexit talks between London and Brussels are expected to start in mid-May, after the EU holds a summit on Brexit on April 29, a month from its launch.

The EU is expected to first ask the UK to pay up USD 64 billion in liabilities in order to agree to settle the British exit from Union, among other demands.

The British government also hopes that it will be able to conduct with Brussels simultaneous talks on both their separation and on a future trade agreement. However, the EU leaders have rejected such an option for the time being.

The main issues to be on Britain’s agenda for the Brexit talks with the EU include the attempt to strike a new customs and free trade deal; the need for a transitional deal before a final one comes into effect; protecting the rights of Brits living in the EU as well as EU citizens already living in Britain; the issue of the UK’s liabilities; the question of the status of the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; establishing a mechanism for the resolution of disputes; cooperation on security and intelligence sharing

On Thursday, the British government is expected to publish details of its “Great Repeal Bill”, which is to convert EU law into domestic legislation while repealing the European Communities Act, which says EU law is supreme to British law.

Warnings

Top British politicians have expressed caution over the Brexit talk prospects warning of the implications of a potential failure to secure a deal with Brussels.

According to opposition Labor Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, if Prime Minister May fails to secure protection for workers’ rights after Brexit, that would be “a national failure of historic proportions”.

“[May is] pulling the trigger that will set in motion a chain of events which will change this country forever, and doing so without a proper plan,“ the opposition Liberal Democrat Party said.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond cautioned that the UK remained a full member of the EU for the next two years and would observe “the same rules and obligations”.

Hammond said the UK could not remain a full member of the EU single market but might end up participating partially or as an associate member.

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