Brexit checkup: U.K., European Union divorce on track despite high-profile resignations
Divorce takes time.
Despite announcing its Brexit intentions in June 2016, the United Kingdom is still only about halfway through the process of breaking up with its longtime partners in the European Union.
Both sides have agreed on the big issues in the divorce, including timelines, finances and who gets the kids — i.e., Scotland and Northern Ireland, who didn’t want the break-up at all.
However, there are still plenty of details to hammer out, which has created tension at the negotiation table and among the ranks of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s own party.
Here’s where Brexit efforts stand two summers after the “leave” campaign won a narrow referendum on June 23, 2016.
The U.K. is still at the negotiating stage of the process, and will not officially leave the EU until 11 p.m. local time on Friday, March 29, 2019 — two years after it served notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The March 2019 deadline will kick off a 21-month transition period to soften the U.K.’s withdrawal. The transition period will last until the end of 2020, with Jan. 1, 2021 marking the dawn of a fully distinct U.K.
The U.K. will be permitted to enact its own trade deals at that time.
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Can they change their minds?
Cancelling the process is not on the table at the moment, despite calls from some corners of the U.K. and EU.
Theresa May on Monday shot down the possibility of a second referendum on the issue, following the departure of two pro-Brexit ministers from her Cabinet.
David Davis resigned from his post as Brexit minister on Sunday, and was promptly replaced by Dominic Raab.
Boris Johnson, a leading figure in the 2016 “leave” campaign, handed in his own resignation from the role of foreign secretary on Monday.
“I’m getting on with the job of delivering what the British people want,” May said on Monday.
She added that her government will not seek to extend the timeline for leaving.
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British passports will still be valid after March 29, although they will no longer convey EU membership privileges.
The U.K. plans to roll out a new, blue cover for its passports to replace the EU’s burgundy one. However, this is not expected to be a Day 1 requirement, and will instead be rolled out with passport renewals over the coming years.
British citizens in the U.K. and elsewhere will lose their EU membership privileges at the end of March, unless they hold dual citizenship with a country that’s still part of the bloc.
Although 51.9 per cent of the U.K. voted to leave the EU, Northern Ireland and Scotland actually voted to stay. That’s created some sour grapes in those nations, particularly in Scotland, where the “stay” side won 62 per cent of the vote.
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Scotland rejected May’s EU Withdrawal Bill in May, which would have enshrined EU laws into British statue after Brexit.
Scotland has also flirted last year with the notion of joining the EU itself, perhaps after holding a referendum. However, there are no plans to put the issue to a vote at this point.
The U.K. will likely spend the next several decades paying off financial liabilities it has accrued as a member of the EU.
The divorce bill is expected to be worth approximately 37.1 billion pounds ($64.5 billion) over 45 years, according to the U.K.’s Office for Budget Responsibility. Earlier estimates had pegged the cost at $77 billion.
Taxpayers will be on the hook for the bill, beginning on March 29 and continuing until 2064.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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