Following the triggering of Article 50 on March 29, Britain enters into two years of negotiations before the official divorce from the European Union in 2019. The EU has been adamant that, on its departure, Britain cannot continue to enjoy the current benefits that it does, like tariff-free trade, free movement of people and funding, without incurring costs.
In answer to Prime Minster Theresa May’s assurance that “no deal” is better that a “bad deal”, the EU chief leading the Brexit negotiations Michael Barnier writing in the Financial Times issued a warning that Britain will be “undoubtedly worse off” if Britain crashes out of the bloc without a deal and that a “no-deal scenario” was a “distinct possibility”.
Failure of the talks, he said, would lead to “severe disruption” at airports as well as “long queues” for tourists and lorry drivers at Dover. He added that the breakdown of negotiations would lead to the “disruption of supply chains” including “the suspension of nuclear material” to the UK for which nuclear power provides around a fifth of national energy. He wants an “orderly withdrawal” and hopes for an “ambitious free trade agreement”.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, however, said that she did not recognise this “apocalyptic” vision of Britain’s future independent of the EU regardless of the outcome of the talks adding that Britain would push for the widest possible access to the single market, but that we did not yet know “what that cost would be”.
Because of the large number of EU member state representatives that will be in attendance and the widespread affect of the content, a policy of “full transparency and public debate” will be in place throughout.
Barnier has also outlined three central uncertainties that the EU and its 27 member states want addressed first by the negotiations.
The talks must decide on the rights of EU nationals in the UK as well as the rights of Britons living in the EU, also of utmost importance are decisions regarding budgetary commitments, and finally a solution must be found to remedy the new border issue between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“It will take time, several months certainly,” said Barnier. “We must do serious legal work on this with the United Kingdom. But we can and we should agree – as soon as possible – on the principles of continuity, reciprocity and nondiscrimination so as not to leave these citizens in a situation of uncertainty.”
The 27 EU member states will meet in Brussels on 29 April to agree their negotiating position with talks expected to begin about a month after that.
During her visit to Scotland last month, Theresa May announced that the Brexit deal would be secured in 18 months, which the Scottish National Party claims would clear the way for Scotland to have another independence referendum within two years.
However, May continues to insist that “now is not the time” as the Scottish people could not possibly give an informed vote before they know the full terms on which Britain is leaving the EU following the negotiation talks.
First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon holds that there is no longer a “rational” argument against the holding of the referendum, as she believes that between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 enough information would be available from the talks before Britain’s official exit from the EU for the Scottish people to make an informed decision on whether to remain part of the UK.