The U.K. has officially begun the process of making its ‘Brexit’ from the European Union. The prime minister of Great Britain, Theresa May, solidified the move by sending formal notice of the nation’s intention to withdraw from the EU. Overall, the process of making the exit will take two full years, ending in 2019. In order to make this move, Ms. May is invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that was signed back in 2007 by all EU member states. Article 50 allows any member state to make a withdrawal from the union. The article stipulates the withdrawal must be done in accordance with the state’s constitutional requirements and official notification be sent to the European Council.
The European Union has defined the relationship between the U.K. and its several member nations for the past four decades. As such, hashing the issues that the “Brexit” will bring is projected to be a difficult web to untangle. Part of the issues that must be resolved on the internal front includes the necessity for making new trade and customs regulations. Additionally, the “Brexit” may also lead to domestic issues for the Conservative government in the U.K. A new independence referendum is set to take place in Scotland.
The majority of Scottish people voted to remain in the EU. Thus, the U.K.’s move to leave the EU may fuel Scottish voters to, in turn, vote to also leave the U.K. Furthermore, dissatisfaction with “Brexit” in Northern Ireland could also be a threat to the Good Friday peace agreement, which defines the relationship between Northern Ireland with both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole.
Still, in the face of this host of potential difficulties, the “Brexit” was made official as Britain’s top envoy to the EU, Tim Barrow, hand-delivered the letter of official notification to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. Negotiations could prove difficult for the U.K. as they leave the EU due to the firm stance that Ms. May has taken prior to the start of any bargaining. She has already insisted that issues on immigration take priority over continued membership in the European Union’s single market or customs union. Still, Ms. May has attempted to strengthen her position by stating that she is prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if the EU does not meet a satisfactory number of her demands. It is unclear whether Ms. May is truly prepared to stand by such an assertive move or whether she is using this assertion as a bluff to give her more bargaining chips.
However, the difference between the deal that Ms. May would be able to negotiate (which many project to have a small amount of concessions from the EU) and leaving the EU without coming to any agreement whatsoever may be small. Still, European leaders who will be involved in negotiations have not really backed down either. They continue to stress that the United Kingdom will not be able to pick and choose the rules and regulations from the EU that it would like to uphold. In the view of these leaders, it would be unfair to member states to allow the U.K to walk away with a better agreement than the privileges enjoyed by member states.
Such an agreement would be a threat to the continued existence of the European Union by only giving other states incentive to leave to negotiate deals that are superior to the current treaty. Despite the seemingly strong stances that both sides are set to take, an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom could be crucial from an economic standpoint. This is because Britain’s economy has was largely defined by its relationship with other European Union member states, which constituted the country’s main trading partners. The trading relationship, indeed, was lucrative for Britain as the EU is the world’s largest single market. The single market paired with its customs union ensures that members have customs-free trade for a variety of goods and services. The change in the economic dynamic has made hashing out a deal in the wake of “Brexit” even more necessary.
However, the U.K., again, has some leverage as it is one of the biggest markets for goods produced in continental Europe. Another point of leverage that Ms. May has already asserted warrants an overall deal being brokered with the EU is that Britain is one of only two significant military powers in Europe, meaning its contributions to intelligence and security are vital on the European and global stage. With the EU and the U.K. both taking firm stances, the future of hashing out negotiations is projected to have many difficulties.