Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 of the EU treaty on Wednesday. The country should be out in two years.
Here is a timeline, based on a mixture of public information and estimations by EU sources:
Wednesday, March 29 – Britain’s EU ambassador delivered a letter from May to European Council President Donald Tusk, confirming the plan to leave and formally launching the process, nine months after Britons voted in a referendum on June 23.
SUMMIT, GUIDELINES, RECOMMENDATIONS
Friday, March 31 – Tusk proposed draft EU negotiating guidelines. Envoys from the 27 other member states met to study them and several said they appeared broadly acceptable to all.
April 11 – Government EU advisers — sherpas — from the 27 are expected to meet in Brussels to revise the guidelines. They are expected to meet again on April 24 for further revisions.
April 27 – EU affairs ministers of the 27 – the General Affairs Council or GAC – meet in Luxembourg to finalize draft.
Saturday, April 29 – EU27 leaders meet in Brussels to approve the final guidelines and mandate Frenchman Michel Barnier, a former European Commissioner, as chief negotiator.
Wednesday, May 3 – After May Day holiday, Barnier likely to go back to Council with his recommendations for how negotiations should be structured, seeking the governments’ approval.
May 22 – The GAC meets, again excluding Britain, to agree legal “negotiating directives” to bind Barnier. This is the full mandate that will let Barnier open negotiations in Brussels.
FACE TO FACE
Early June – Finally, nearly a year after the referendum, British negotiators led by Brexit Secretary David Davis will sit down with Barnier’s EU team. Barnier reckons it will be in early June after governments sign off on his negotiating mandate.
However, “talks about talks” may get under way weeks earlier. Both sides can save time by fixing procedural arrangements — who will meet whom where, speaking what language, and so on.
THE DIVORCE DEAL
Autumn 2017 – Tusk says the EU27 will review in the autumn whether “sufficient progress” has been made in outlining a Withdrawal Treaty for negotiators to move on to a second phase of talks to discuss a post-Brexit free trade deal. First the EU wants to settle key issues: how to calculate an exit bill for Britain’s outstanding commitments; treatment of British and EU expats; dealing with outstanding EU legal cases; new borders.
Oct-Nov 2018 – Barnier’s target to finalize the Withdrawal Treaty, to give time for ratification by the European Parliament and a majority in the European Council by March 2019.
Autumn 2018 to Spring 2019 – The Scottish government wants an independence vote once the terms of a Brexit deal are clear. But, May has rejected the call for a new Scottish referendum until after Britain leaves the EU.
Friday, March 29, 2019 – Barring surprises, Britain leaves at midnight, at the end of the last business day of the quarter.
A PERIOD OF TRANSITION
May and EU leaders say transitional arrangements may well be needed, to allow more time to agree a future trade deal and give people and businesses time to adjust to the divorce. Many see another two to five years after Brexit for a final settlement.
If Scotland votes for independence, expect more years to negotiate its split from London and possible re-entry to the EU. -REUTERS.
(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald)