So, the day has arrived. It’s Article 50 Day. The day Theresa May sends an already-signed letter via Sir Tim Barrow to notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union. Once the letter is sent, the UK will have to wait for the EU Council president, Donald Tusk, to send his response, which is expected to take up to 48 hours.
What happens then?
On April 5th, the European Parliament will vote on a ‘Brexit Resolution’ setting out their red lines, which will be officially issued at an EU summit on April 29th. Then the EU-27 guidelines and any other negotiations will be agreed at another summit on June 22nd. This will be handed over to the EU Commission’s negotiator, Michel Barnier, a French diplomat. He runs the Task Force 50 department, which will then deal with all the negotiations on the EU side. The UK remains a member for two years from the trigger date, making the official divorce on March 29th, 2019.
Until this date we in the UK are still bound by EU laws. The only thing we’re not included in are the Brexit negotiations between the remaining 27 members. And the two-year period can be extended if things take longer than expected, but this will need to be agreed upon by the EU. The UK has to officially exit after the two years are up – that’s a given. But not everything has to be set in stone by this time.
The divorce is likely to focus on settling bills and working out a smooth transition. All of this will be negotiated by the three main Brexiteers: David Davis, Brexit Secretary, Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, and Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary. Trade deals with other countries may be ongoing for a while, way beyond the 2019 deadline.
What does Article 50 precisely say?
Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that state, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the union by the council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
The Treaties shall cease to apply to the state in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the member state concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the council representing the withdrawing member state shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
If a state which has withdrawn from the union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
In short, there is no precedent, no pattern to follow and so the process and procedures are unclear for Brexit. Both sides will be feeling their way for some time to come. This will present a period of uncertainty and no doubt the volume levels from Britain-haters will rise while those few million Britons in Scotland and Ireland who seek to use Brexit as an opportunity to break up the UK will be taking every opportunity.
We must move forwards undaunted. Expect resistance. After all, look what happened to previous EU Referenda. Were they respected?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those Remainers in the UK now got into line and united the country? Unlikely?
Once the Europeans start playing hardball, the national mood in the UK will only become more resolute – against the last vestiges of the Remainers, against those who sow discord in these islands and against the EU.
There will be interesting times ahead.
Here at Country Squire Magazine we intend to be right on top of them.