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Brexit Begins: March 29

by John Brian Shannon | March 20, 2017

UK Prime Minister Theresa May says she intends to proceed to exit the EU on March 29. Brexit begins…

Theresa May will trigger EU withdrawal talks under Article 50 on March 29, Downing Street has announced

The Prime Minister’s letter officially notifying the European Council of the UK’s intention to quit will set in train a two-year negotiation process expected to lead to Britain leaving the EU on March 29 2019.

Britain’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, informed the office of European Council president Donald Tusk on Monday morning of the Prime Minister’s plans.

The Brexit Bill – officially called the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – was given the green light last week after being signed off by the Queen. — metro.co.uk

First on the agenda will be whether May can negotiate unrestricted access to EU markets for Britain, and how much access European Union citizens and industry will have to the United Kingdom. It’s likely to require a substantial amount of time, patience, and great diplomatic skill on both sides of the negotiating table.

Of secondary importance will be the decisions taken on customs and immigration. The EU has lost control of its external border as the Schengen Area borders effectively collapsed when millions of Syrian, Middle Eastern and African refugees began streaming into the southern European Union.

And the third negotiating point will likely relate to the status of EU citizens who live and work inside the UK, and of Britons who work or retired in the European Union.

Brexit Begins in Britain on March 29, 2017...

Brexit Begins in Britain on March 29, 2017. Image created by Samankashwaha.

In total, some 3.3 million EU citizens live in Britain, but nobody has kept an accurate count of this (nobody!) nor has any government agency kept count. In the European Union it’s thought that 1.1 million Britons live or work on the EU side of the border. Except that nobody knows for sure. One side is just as broken as the other. Facepalm!

Experts and commentators unanimously agree that it will take years, perhaps 10-years or more to hammer out an agreement on all the current issues between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail and that we don’t add mountains of new issues to the existing list of items to be discussed and resolved. It’s going to be a monumental work as it is.

It’s important to remember that in a ‘Win-Win’ relationship, whatever gets solved, becomes a ‘Win-Win’ for the politicians involved. Which is handy, come the next election.

While the UK side has seemed apprehensive and tentative at times, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a June 23rd EU referendum result which saw 52% of voters choose to ‘Leave’ the European Union — the EU side has taken an increasingly hostile position — as if senior EU politicians have taken it personally that Britons voted to ‘Leave’ and as a voter attack on their cherished institutions.

However, if European Union membership were that wonderful, not one person would have considered leaving the EU… but the simple fact is, more than 17 million British voters elected to leave the EU governance architecture.

And no matter what — no matter what! — the will of voters always trumps the will of politicians. We’ve seen it time and again throughout history. Yes, totalitarian states can ‘hang on to power’ for a time using the full resources of the state, until such times as the state collapses and the strongman is overthrown, but such things are supposed to be impossible in democratic states.

Let’s hope that the European Union lives up to its high democratic ideals and allows nations to leave as easily as they join!

On the bright side, it could be that by voting to Brexit the citizens of the United Kingdom will have assisted the EU to take the concerns, disappointments and perceived slights of member-state citizens more seriously in the future. Otherwise, Brexit will simply become one part of a much larger process, resulting in the eventual dissolution of the Union. And that would be a shame.

Four Ways That Will Measure Brexit Success

by John Brian Shannon | February 2, 2017

A brilliant group of academics and professionals have published a list of four questions that should be foremost in the minds of those wanting to negotiate a successful Brexit result as they navigate through the process of leaving the European Union.

These economists, lawyers, sociologists, and political scientists suggest that four important metrics need to be considered for any final Brexit agreement to be termed a “success” by a majority of Britons.

  1. Will Britain be better off, compared to staying in the EU?
  2. Will it create a fairer society?
  3. Will it make Britain’s economy and society more or less open?
  4. Will it give governance back to the electorate?

These seem utterly reasonable questions the public and policymakers can use to guide their thinking about Brexit over the coming months and years.

With so much focus on GDP growth and the export economy it was heartening to hear the Prime Minister speak about addressing inequality in the country, a problem not unique to Britain, but one which represents a gathering socio-economic catastrophe that rarely gets the attention it deserves. Kudos there, Mrs. May!

“As Mrs May has pointed out, judging Brexit is not just about GDP numbers, it’s also about creating a ‘fairer’ Britain – closing the wealth gap and expanding wealth and opportunity beyond London and the Southeast, as well as taking back control of borders and law-making.” — The Telegraph

Britain | A Successful Brexit.

A Successful Brexit. Four Metrics to Guide UK Separation from the European Union. Image courtesy of The UK in a Changing Europe.

These are the right questions to be asking prior to the formal start of the Brexit process which Prime Minister Theresa May has said will commence March 2017 when the UK government triggers Article 50 of the EU constitution.

See: PM Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech

Britain | Key Brexit dates.

Key Brexit dates. Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

February 1, 2017: Supported by the Labour Party, House of Commons MP’s backed the government’s European Union Bill voting 498 votes to 114 (a majority of 384) to allow the Prime Minister to get Brexit negotiations underway. — Excellent BBC article here.


March 31, 2017: Self-imposed deadline set by the Prime Minister for informing the EU via the Article 50 clause that Britain wishes to exit the European Union.

After a long delay (which is typical in politics) things are going to get interesting, fast.

Once Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, the ball will be, as they say, in the European Union’s court.

Recommended Reading:

The UK in a Changing Europe is an impartial and independent organisation created to make the findings of the best academic research easily available to the widest possible audience. This report was written by the initiative’s director Anand Menon and senior fellows Angus Armstrong, Catherine Barnard, Iain Begg and Jonathan Portes. The report in its entirety is available for download here (PDF). [Worth the read. – Ed.]

Leaning toward ‘Soft Brexit’ Instead of Chaos?

by John Brian Shannon

Now that Brexit is beginning to sink-in for Britons and for UK politicians entrusted to carry out the will of ‘The People’ it seems that a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ might be orders of magnitude more difficult than first imagined, while a so-called ‘Soft Brexit’ might be preferable to all parties, which appears to be an elegant solution at the point where the people’s interests intersect with the UK economy.

Because Philip Hammond’s economy is doing well considering everything that’s happened since 2008, PM Theresa May can relax about the economy and get on with her part of running the United Kingdom — namely, the political arrangements for a Soft Brexit now (let’s call that Brexit Stage I) and possibly a Hard Brexit later (let’s call that Brexit Stage II) if that part is approved by voters in the next UK election on May 7, 2020.

Soft Brexit vs. Hard Brexit. Image courtesy of J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Soft Brexit vs. Hard Brexit. Image courtesy of J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Soft Brexit probably equals mild uncertainty in the markets, while Hard Brexit might cause economic chaos

Since 1973 when Britain joined the European Community and it’s various and later governmental structures, the policies in all member nations have largely been set by common agreements forged with those organizations. There are literally hundreds of thousands of laws and regulations to replace in a post-Brexit UK. It will be a humongous task.

Even Greenland, with its total population of 56,196 took three years to exit the European Union. The UK with it’s $2.8 trillion (GDP) advanced economy has hundreds of thousands of EU laws, trade laws, tariff controls, manufacturing standards and immigration rules, that guide industry, the UK government, and Britons — all of which might take 5-10 years to replace with UK-centric legislation. Industry simply can’t function without proper regulations which leaves only one choice for many organizations; Leave Britain. That’s not in the best interests of Britons, the government, nor of UK industry itself.

A brilliant plan, is one that allows the UK to rejoin the EEA and the EFTA (as in the Norway or Swiss model) and it’s actually doable.

Have you seen Norwegian or Swiss economies? Let’s just say that on a per capita basis, they beat every European economy every year.

And, sure, some commenters will try to make things more complicated than they really are. But it isn’t complicated unless you desire it to be that.

With proper stewardship the UK economy can perform as well as any non-EU-member-nation noted in the links below. Check out their world-leading per capita income and low unemployment rates!

Norway Economic Outlook
Switzerland Economic Outlook

If Switzerland and Norway (for two examples) can have EEA and/or EFTA membership, and bilateral agreements with the EU, and booming economies — there’s no reason the UK can’t.

It’s not rocket science. Brexit does NOT mean the end of trade with the EU. That would cause long-term recession in the EU (likely leading to its dissolution) and a long-term case of the economic doldrums for the UK. The two blocs need each other whether some like it or not. So, get on with it!

UK Prime Minister Theresa May needs to stop everything(!) and get warm approval for EFTA membership accession from all four EFTA member nations.

Not to mention appointing a Minister for Scotland (a ‘Scot’) a Minister for Northern Ireland (a ‘Northern Irelander’) and a Minister for Wales (a Welsh resident) to shore-up relationships with the UK’s devolved regions, and also appoint a Minister for England.

And gain approval for Brexit among the remaining 27 EU member nations which must unanimously approve Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Accomplishing all of that would be five-years’ worth of dedicated work for any British Prime Minister! Even former Prime Minister extraordinaire Sir Winston Churchill, might’ve found a challenge in that.

UK Conservatives (with significant help from UKIP) have gained a mandate for Soft Brexit but I don’t think 52% is enough of a mandate for Hard Brexit. Which is why I support ‘Soft Brexit’ for now — and if approved by voters at the next election — ‘Hard Brexit’.

In the meantime, there’s an unimaginable amount of work left to secure a stable, fair, and expeditious Soft Brexit that solves some of the deficiencies of Britain’s EU membership, while leaving only free movement of labour and persons, and certain trade matters to negotiate, if it ever comes to Stage II Brexit.

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