Four things you need to know about Brexit as PM May invokes Article 50
Long-awaited divorce proceedings between Britain and the European Union formally began Wednesday, when Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50, the legislation that formally kicks off a two-year-long Brexit process.
Clock starts ticking
Now that May have triggered Article 50, EU must respond within 48 hours. The bloc — which marked the 60th anniversary of its founding on Saturday — will convene a summit for April 29. Britain will have two years to negotiate the terms of its exit, meaning it will leave the EU by April 2019. The terms must be ratified by the other 27 members. Each country has a veto, and each must ratify its decision with its own domestic lawmakers.
The negotiations could be heated. Of particular concern is whether Britain wants to remain in the EU’s single market, the borderless area that provides favored trade status and allows EU citizens to live and work, without a visa, in any other EU country. The U.K. government has pledged that it is prepared to give up this crucial trade access as it tries to lower immigration from other EU members. Also at stake are the rights of the 3 million EU citizens who live in Britain and the 1 million British nationals who reside in EU member states.
Second Scottish referendum
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to hold a second referendum on Scotland’s independence from Britain. Scottish voters overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU in last June’s referendum, but the final tally across the U.K. was 52% for Brexit. Scotland voted in a referendum in 2014 to remain part of Britain. Sturgeon said she wants the new vote to be held between the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, close to the timing of the U.K.’s formal split from the EU. Scotland’s Parliament voted for a new referendum on Scottish independence on Tuesday. Sturgeon needs British parliamentary approval for the vote. The U.K. government has refused to take part in discussions until after Brexit.
Exit whether deal or no deal
If Britain fails to secure a deal with the EU within two years, Britain will still leave the EU, but the precise terms of its exit deal might be decided by the courts. On the issue of trade, Britain likely would be forced to abide by World Trade Organization rules, at least temporarily. “We should be under no illusions about what this would really mean. A ‘no deal’ scenario would open a Pandora’s Box of economic consequences,” said Paul Drechsler, president of the Confederation of British Industry, in a recent speech in London. “The U.K. would face tariffs on 90% of its EU exports by value and a raft of new regulatory hurdles. Let’s remember these barriers would hurt firms on both sides of the English Channel,” he said.