If there was any uncertainty over whether the Brits would really be leaving Europe, the period of waiting is over. Prime Minister, Theresa May today signed the letter to formally start Britain’s EU exit (Brexit.)
Under the now infamous Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, official written notice is required for any member state to leave the Union. On Wednesday, Mrs. May signed off on the letter that will do exactly that. It will be delivered to Donald Tusk, European Council president.
Giving a statement to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister is set to inform MPs that this is “the moment for the country to come together.” However, the country coming together will be no easy feat, considering the referendum vote was almost split directly down the middle.
May’s letter is to be delivered at 12:20 BST, Wednesday by Sir Tim Barrow, British ambassador to the EU. The countdown to Brexit is now officially underway.
What happens now?
May understands that not everyone is supportive of the move. She promises to “represent every person in the whole United Kingdom” throughout the negotiations. This will include EU nationals, who are still uncertain about their status in the UK. UK nationals residing in other parts of Europe will also be watching the outcome of the negotiations nervously.
Leader of the opposing Labor party, Jeremy Corbyn, says that he will support the government. Although, he will also be holding them accountable throughout negotiations. “Britain is going to change as a result. The question is how,” he said. He also added that Brexit could be a failure of epic proportions if the Conservative leader fails to get it right.
What happens now though, remains uncertain, seeing as there is no precedent for this in history. Britain is the first member state to request exit from the European Union. Scotland is likely to request a second referendum on whether to seek independence from the UK, in favor of staying in Europe, among other consequences, which Britain as an independent nation will have to accept.
How long will it take?
It will take a full two years for the Brexit to be completed, unless the deadline is extended. Meaning that Britain will leave the EU on March 29th, 2019. During this time, EU citizens can still move to the UK and their rights will be fully respected. At the same time, UK citizens can still move freely within member states.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the historic European divorce, with peer Lord Gus O’Donnell, a former civil servant of Britain summing it up colorfully as like being:
“in a plane being flown by members of the EU and we’re about to jump out and we have got a parachute designed by the people flying the plane – and they have designed it in a way to deter anyone else jumping out”.
Theresa May spoke last night by telephone to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as well as EU Commission president, Mr. Tusk. The UK is requesting an early agreement to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in the UK as well as Brits living abroad. However, it is uncertain if this will be granted.