After months of posturing and speculation, the moment of truth has arrived. UK Prime Minister Teresa May on Wednesday is expected to send her formal notice to European Union leaders of the UK’s intension to leave the European project.
EU leaders said they are ready for Brexit talks to begin on the tail end of the EU celebrating its 60th anniversary in Rome.
The UK’s triggering of Article 50 will set in motion a series of events which, in the best case scenario, leaves the UK and the EU on amicable terms after two years of negotiation.
So on Wednesday, what happens next?
Within 48 hours of May’s notice, EU Council President Donald Tusk will give out to EU leaders the bloc’s drafted negotiation points.
PM May has long been confident of her ability to win the best possible deal for the UK and EU negotiators said they do not wish to punish the British people for voting to leave the 28-member bloc.
They’ve even suggested they would try to mitigate the worst possible effects on the UK economy.
But Brexit was not something EU leaders had foreseen. And while they begrudgingly accept the legitimacy of UK’s referendum result, they will be keen to make an example of the UK to quiet any other secession sentiments in Europe.
The UK parliament earlier this month voted down any attempts to guarantee the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens living in Briton. EU leaders say they will reject any attempt by the UK to impose travel restrictions on EU nationals before a Brexit deal is enacted.
By April 29, EU leaders hope to finalise their negotiating position and by May have the legal mandate in effect for EU executives to start Brexit negotiations.
Both sides said they expect the divorce to be long and often difficult. Untangling the UK from the EU may also take more than two years.
What is Article 50?
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows a member state to notify the EU of its withdrawal and obliges the EU to try to negotiate a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with that state. It involves five points:
- 1.Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
- 2.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.
- 3.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.
- 4.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.
- 5.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.
I will take about two years to officially “leave” the EU, however, most experts predict a longer period. During this negotiation process, EU laws will still apply to the UK – it will continue to participate in other EU business but will not participate in internal EU discussions or decisions on its own withdrawal.
Talks will focus on negotiating access to the single market and creating new trade deals, as well as deciding the rights of movement for EU nationals and Britons. For example, what arrangements and visas will be necessary for EU citizens in the UK and for British nationals on the European Continent?
This is also when it will be decided what kind of trade deal Britain will have with the EU. Negotiators must take into account an exiting country’s “future relationship” with the EU.
Agreements or any extension to Article 50 will have to be approved by all 27 member states and will likely require ratification by national parliaments.