It’s official. Last week (March 29) Prime Minister Theresa May signed the letter that triggered article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is the result of the Brexit vote that took place in June 2016. Since then, Cameron stepped down, and there has been much speculation about UK’s future and Europe’s.
Mrs. May’s letter highlights the wishes of her cabinet to develop a strategic partnership with the EU. Trade and security are mains concerns. If both sides fail to reach a common ground, trade will have to follow WTO rules, while regional security might be compromised. It should be noted that approximately 45% of British exports are to the EU. Therefore, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Michel Barnier (Davis’ EU counterpart) will have plenty to discuss until March 2019.
The prime minister stressed that negotiations will seek to preserve the citizens rights, i.e., British nationals living in different European countries. Another topic that is still extremely sensitive to London is its position as the financial hub of the continent. If the UK loses its access to the EU market many banks will be obliged to move jobs across the channel.
Donald Tusk received officially the letter from the hands of British Ambassador Tim Barrow in Brussels. Tusk expressed his sadness about it, but encouraged the other 27 Member States to unite and to remain determined. According to the Council’s President:
There is nothing to win in this process, and I am talking about both sides. In essence, this is about damage control. Our goal is clear: to minimise the costs for the EU citizens, businesses and Member States. We will do everything in our power – and we have all the tools – to achieve this goal. And what we should stress today is that, as for now, nothing has changed: until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, EU law will continue to apply to – and within – the UK.
In the following day, Tusk made a speech outlining principles that will guide negotiations. These principles share the same mindset previously stated in the letter of Prime Minister May. Tusk ended his statement by saying:
The EU27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach. Brexit in itself is already punitive enough. After more than forty years of being united, we owe it to each other to do everything we can to make this divorce as smooth as possible.
One week after the announcement, the European Parliament will today (April 5) establish guidelines for Brexit negotiations. Although the divorce between the UK and Europe shall be negotiated to avoid hardships, many MEPs understand that EU Members should have a better position compared to outsiders. Manfred Weber made this point clear (see video below).
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) 5 April 2017
In order to avoid uncertainty with regards to trade, policy makers envisage transitional arrangements (temporary deals) that shall expire within three years (after 2019).
MEPs would also like to see the UK paying a fee for leaving the bloc, taking into account all the negotiations and adjustments the Brexit entails.