BRITAIN’S historic exit from the European Union is getting closer – with exit to be completed on March 29, 2019.
Theresa May triggered our formal Article 50 exit notification in March 2017 to fire the starting gun on two years of tough negotiations. Here’s what’s happened so far.
When was Article 50 triggered?
As of 12.30pm on March 29 2017, the UK was set on a course to leave the EU by March 29, 2019.
The PM sent an official letter invoking Article 50 which was delivered to Donald Tusk.
It came after Theresa May quashed a Tory revolt after passing a law to authorise Brexit following a marathon five-week battle with Parliament.
The Lords had earlier defied the PM by adding two changes to the bill which would guarantee the rights of EU citizens and ensure Parliament has a vote on the final deal – but the Commons threw out these conditions.
But it backed down after the Commons vote, agreeing not to tamper with the landmark power – ordered by the Supreme Court – for a second time, ending the constitutional stand-off.
On October 1 Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said a pause on leaving the bloc was not on the cards and called on EU chiefs to “get real”.
What is Article 50 of The Lisbon Treaty?
The Lisbon Treaty came into force on December 1, 2009, as the culmination of the EU’s eight-year quest to make the organisation “more democratic, more transparent and more efficient”.
It set out a number of rules and posts including the introduction of the EU Presidency, redistribution of voting weights of member states and Article 50.
Article 50 sets out the process of leaving the EU and states: “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”
It then goes on to say that a state wishing to withdraw will let the European Council know it intends to leave, which will “trigger” the article.
At this point, the Treaties that bound Britain to EU rules cease to apply and the terms of leaving will begin to be negotiated.
Can Article 50 be reversed?
The law is not totally clear on this, but there are a few issues that could leave some wiggle room.
One primarily being if a “transitional” deal is not secured with the EU to temporarily cover the country’s EU trade relations while the final deal is being negotiated.
If the EU is unwilling to give the UK this deal, it would be an advantage for Mrs May to withdraw her request and then trigger it again – buying another two years of negotiations.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss has said of Article 50 that it is her understanding “that it is irrevocable”.
The UK Supreme Court said once the article is given “it cannot be withdrawn”.
However, Lord Kerr, author of Article 50, has said: “You can change your mind while the process is going on.”
And the House of Lords, advised by its legal counsel, was told there is nothing in Article 50 to prevent a member state from reversing its decision.
Former Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson has said the deadline will been to be extended.
“I think everyone knows none of this process is going to be completed by next March, everyone knows it’s going to have to be extended,” Lord Mandelson told the BBC’s Politics Live.
In December 2018 European judges ruled that Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by Britain – handing a huge victory to Remainers ahead of Parliament’s vote on the Brexit deal.
A top ECJ official delivered his bombshell verdict after a group of pro-EU politicians challenged the claim that the UK can only cancel Brexit with the consent of the other 27 member states.
Have Brexit negotiations started?
The EU divorce deal has now been agreed by member states and the UK Government.
Parliament was set to vote on the deal on Wednesday, December 12.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier kicked off the Brexit negotiations on Monday, June 19, 2017 with a historic handshake in Brussels.
On December 15, 2017, the EU agreed to move to the second phase of negotiations after reaching preliminary agreements on three of its major priorities; the divorce bill, the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens’ post-Brexit.
An agreement on a transition period, or implementation period, was later reached.
Theresa May and her Cabinet pushed for the arrangement to avoid a so-called “cliff edge” moment on March 29, 2019.
However, the agreement of the transition period has not been without difficulties.
Fishermen and some MPs were left angry after it was confirmed that the current rules and regulations regarding EU nations’ access to British fishing waters would remain largely unchanged.
What is the Brexit process now Article 50 has been triggered?
After triggering Article 50 it is supposed to take two years to completely leave the EU but many experts think it could take far more time.
Invoking the article fires the starting gun on leaving but there will then follow series of complicated negotiations.
The terms of exit have to be agreed between the UK and the 27 other member states who all have a veto over the conditions of leaving.
After that, it will then have to be approved in each of the national parliaments meaning French, Irish or Dutch MPs could, in theory, scupper the process.
David Davis announced that Britain will officially leave the EU at 11pm GMT on March 29, 2019 – this date is now exactly six months away.