The countdown to Brexit begins
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The countdown to Brexit begins

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, setting in motion the process by which the United Kingdom will leave the bloc. Britain’s ambassador to the EU handed President Donald Tusk a letter confirming the move, finally making Brexit an inescapable reality, and severing (or starting to sever) cultural and trade ties that have been cultivated during Britain’s 44 year membership.

What comes next is an open question. Both the UK and the EU have drawn lines in the sand, and some of those lines seem to cross over one another. May is adamant that the will of the British people, as expressed through referendum 9 months ago, will be fulfilled. That, according to May, means reclaiming control of the movement of people between Europe and the EU. However, May is also beholden to getting a favourable trade deal with the bloc – something Brussels is equally adamant should be unattainable.

This is more than sour grapes on the EU’s part. It is vital to the future of the Union that member states do not perceive leaving as a beneficial move. In the run up to May’s triggering of Article 50, the 27 nations of the EU have been surprisingly united in refusing to enter trade negotiations early.

May told parliament that: “It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country. We all want to live in a truly global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world.”

May will hope to not only negotiate strong trade deals with the EU, but also with non-EU territories, like China and the U.S. But it will likely be far from easy to do so. In addition to EU inflexibility, May will have to contend with the specter of banks and big businesses threatening to flee London, and even the possible break up of the UK. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has recently campaigned for s second vote on Scottish independence, took to Twitter yesterday morning, saying:

“Today, the PM will take the UK over a cliff with no idea of the landing place. Scotland didn’t vote for it and our voice has been ignored.”

Both the EU and the UK are united in one thing: that a strong united front is maintained no matter whether Britain is a member of the bloc or not. However, in practice, this may be hard to achieve over the following 18 months (the suggested timeline for negotiations). European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has previously predicted that negotiations will be “very, very, very difficult,” and David Davis, the UK’s Brexit Minister, has described the talks as, potentially, “the most complicated negotiation of all time.”

Disclosure

The opinions in this article do not reflect those of Dominion Fund Management Limited, and in the instance of any forward-looking statements, these should not be construed as advice.


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