Barely thirty minutes after Prime Minister Theresa May commenced her address to Parliament at noon today, Tim Barrow, the UK’s representative to the EU, hand delivered its Article 50 Notice to Donald Trusk, the President of the European Counsel , in Brussels. The speculation is over – the UK is formally withdrawing from the EU.
Prime Minister May told Parliament that “[t]oday, the government acted on the democratic will of the British people, and it acts too on the clear and convincing position of this house. The Article 50 process is now underway and in accordance with the wishes of the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.” She goes on to say that “[t]his is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back.” However, her remarks were somewhat toned down from previous strident comments as she reaches out to the EU, stating that while Britain is “truly global” it is also “the best friend and neighbor to our European partners….”
Certainly, she expects that negotiations for the withdrawal will be difficult. If Britain expects to “cherry pick” the EU regulations most favorable to it, European Leaders will likely be a barrier. They have repeatedly stated that Britain cannot leave the EU and have a better deal than those countries remaining.
Immigration was certainly a motivating factor for the UK’s action. But that’s not the only one. Negotiations will likely address such concerns as customs checks at the border, tariffs on trade between the UK and EU, and financial regulations relating to capital markets, not the least of which is Britain’s obligation of more than 64 billion dollars in future EU spending commitments.
Of further interest today, Scotland stated that it will schedule a referendum to leave the United Kingdom, with that vote likely to be taken the week before the Article 50 process deadline. Northern Ireland may follow suit. Prime Minister May said such action by Scotland and Northern Ireland is not permissible.
While the major equities markets appeared to take Britain’s Article 50 Notice in stride, pretty much moving sideways after facing off slightly at the opening bell, this is only the beginning of what has been referred to as the “most acrimonious divorce in history.