For 52% of the Great British Public today is a day of celebration. To the 48% that voted to remain within the EU, today is a day to lament. What is today? Well, today is Brexit Day. Today, British Prime Minister Teresa May triggers Article 50. Today is the day that the United Kingdom officially signals its intent to leave the European Union.
It has taken a full nine months since the June referendum, but today is the day that Prime Minister May will notify EU Council President Donald Tusk that Great Britain really is leaving the European Union. The same EU that it fought so hard to join in 1973. The historic letter formally starts what looks to be a messy divorce.
Although the details of the divorce are far from clear, it emerged that Britain will adhere to Brussels free movement rules for a period of up to two more years. Article 50, despite being only five paragraphs long, is the most important document for decades. What will happen next, no one really knows for certain. EU leaders have made it clear that they do not want Britain to have an easy Brexit. Only yesterday, the European Parliament threatened to block a final Brexit deal should the UK try to introduce a cut-off prior to its full departure from the European Union.
Although nothing is certain or written in stone, here is a potential timeline of events:
29 April. – EU summit of the 27 leaders (excluding the UK) to officially give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with the UK.
May. – European Commission to announce negotiating guidelines based on the mandate. Future EU-UK trade deals will be mentioned.
May/June 2017. – Actual negotiations start.
23 April and 7 May. – Presidential elections in France.
24 September. – Parliamentary elections in Germany.
Autumn 2017. – The UK is expected to put forward legislation to leave the EU and place all existing EU laws into British law. This is called the Great Repeal Bill.
October 2018. – Negotiations are set to end.
Between October 2018 and March 2019. – The Houses of Parliament, European Council and the European Parliament to vote on the deal put forward.
March 2019 – The United Kingdom formally withdraws from the European Union.
So, with so much undecided and so much in the air, today is not the day for celebration. Today is not the day for lament. March 29th is a historic day, but just one step in a long and arduous journey.