Wednesday 29 March 2017

Article 50 notice - The end of the beginning

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end but it is perhaps, the end of the beginning."  Those words of Winston Churchill seem apt today as the UK government takes the formal step of commencing the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) was "triggered" today and the letter from the Prime Minister to the EU Council President may be seen via this link.   See also the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons
The European Parliament has published "How the future of EU - UK relations will be decided"  Starting today the UK and the EU have two years to negotiate a withdrawal agreement. In addition the two parties will need to start determining their future trade relations, though this is expected to take significantly longer than two years.

The withdrawal negotiations are to be conducted in accordance with guidelines to be issued as a draft by the European Council almost certainly later this week.  The European Council (27 member states) will convene on 29th April.  The UK remains a member during the negotiations but may not participate in Council discussions about Brexit - see Art 50(4).  The negotiation will be conducted by the European Commission acting on behalf of the Council.

There is no doubt that the Article 50 notification puts the EU in the position of being able to control the whole process.   It is not going too far to say that much of our future has been placed in their hands and not in the hands of our own Parliament.  This is why the European Council guidelines will be crucial because they will determine what the EU negotiators are permitted to do.

The EU itself is likely to change during the negotiation period - see the EU Commission's Paper on the Future of Europe: Avenues for Unity for the EU at 27

Reaction from the EU:

See the European Council Press Release (29th March) and the Remarks of the European Council President (Mr Donald Tusk).

Sir Tim Barrow handing letter to Mr Donald Tusk - 29th March 2017

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