The second major milestone of the Brexit victory has now been reached as the British government formally began the Article 50 separation proceedings that will see them end their membership with the European Union.
Early Wednesday morning the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, delivered this message to Parliament:
“This is an historic moment for which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union… The Article 50 process is now under way, and in accordance with the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.”
Now begins an arduous 2-year long process that will unwind the various entanglements between the UK and the EU, including the all-important trade deals that so many pundits in the UK were worried about losing. While the current trade guarantees will be canceled, the UK will simultaneously be working on securing a new deal with the EU in the hopes that business will proceed as usual, but there is a very real possibility that no new deal will be reached before the Article 50 clock runs out. However, the risk involved should becomes less worrisome when Brits realize that their government will now, once again, be able to negotiate new trade treaties with other nations of the world without the encumbrance of the EU to stop them. (Under EU guidelines no member nation could negotiate trade deals, that was the purview of the EU.) The benefit of “self determination” was a major reason that the people of the United Kingdom decided to vote for Brexit, and now that Article 50 has been triggered the reality that the UK will soon get to choose it’s own path again becomes more palpable.
While the people of the UK voted for Brexit, the leaders of the nation and the leaders of the EU don’t seem to like it.
The split is expected to be bitter — EU leaders will not want to make leaving their union seem easy or fruitful, to deter other countries that might be mulling a referendum of their own.But after receiving the letter, Tusk appeared more like a downtrodden spouse, devastated by a looming divorce.“There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day, neither in Brussels nor in London. After all, most Europeans, including almost half the British voters, wish that we would stay together, not drift apart,” he said.But on a more positive note, he said Brexit had made the 27 other nations in the EU more determined and united.
The UK faces other dangers as well. The split from the EU comes at a time when tensions between London and Northern Ireland are high, and the possibility that the UK might introduce “direct rule” on the Irish swath of the UK is very real. Also, Scotland has never seemed further from the UK than it does today. Scotland is by far the most liberal portion of the UK and the people there voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, which could make Brexit the “straw that breaks the back” of the United Kingdom. The Scots have scheduled another referendum on Independence and this time the fervor to split from the UK and reunite with the EU could finally drive the Scottish out of the kingdom.
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, made her feelings known on Twitter earlier today.
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.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 29, 2017
The comment seems ominous, but the reality is it’s already too late. The people of the UK vote to leave, even though 62% of Scottish voters chose remain, and so the UK must leave the EU, even if it means losing Scotland.
The next test for Brexit will be making the split with the EU as amicable as possible.
You can see Prime Minister Theresa May’s full statement from this morning below: