The government has today, Wednesday 29 March, notified the EU that it is invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is in line with the government's long-held commitment to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017. Article 50 obliges the EU to negotiate and agree arrangements for the UK to withdraw from the EU and for managing the EU’s future relationship with the UK. There is a two year time limit for the UK and EU to reach an agreement (which may also include agreed extensions). After this period, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will take effect even if there is no agreement in place.
The UK's Brexit priorities
Today's formal announcement triggering the UK’s withdrawal from the EU comes after a well-publicised political process. The government’s white paper published in January sets out its 12 priorities for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Much of the white paper expands upon the speeches given by Mrs May in the run-up to the Brexit votes in Parliament. Although the government’s stated objectives may be difficult to achieve, they give a good indication of the intended approach during the negotiations.
The 12 priorities
- Providing certainty and clarity.
- Taking control of our own laws.
- Strengthening the Union.
- Protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area.
- Controlling immigration.
- Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals.
- Protecting workers’ rights.
- Ensuring free trade with European markets.
- Securing new trade agreements with other countries.
- Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation.
- Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism.
- Delivering a smoother, orderly exit from the EU.
Brexit trade agreements
Trade has been a central theme in the Brexit discussions to date and it is expected to remain a high priority. The government has acknowledged that it cannot negotiate new trade deals until after Britain has left the EU. The government’s view is that it is vital to trigger the Brexit process quickly and ensure it goes smoothly in order to protect its position in relation to future trade deals. The government intends that the negotiations on the agreement to leave the EU will echo Mrs May's repeated pledges to make the UK a 'champion of free trade' and to protect the existing trade links as far as possible.
Although the withdrawal agreement is still to be negotiated, the government will hope that today's withdrawal notice provides a clear message of the government's intention to commit to the withdrawal process and provide a 'coherent and coordinated approach' to the UK's withdrawal from the EU. The full implication of Brexit on various sectors and the economy is still unclear but it is well-understood in the business community that those directly or indirectly impacted by EU cross border trade will need to consider how to mitigate the effect of Brexit in their current and future commercial arrangements.