United Kingdom government has formally started its divorce process with the European Union, also known as Brexit. Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, confirmed that the UK had triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, making Britain the first country to officially leave the EU after its people voted for it in a 2016 referendum.
“This is a historic moment for which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union”, May announced during her speech in the House of Commons in London. “The Article 50 process is now under way, and in accordance with the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union”.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the British Permanent Representative to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, handed a formal letter of notification to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, thus formally triggering the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The Brexit process is expected to last for two years, while British and European governments and administrations work out all the necessary paperwork before the UK can finally become completely independent again. May and her colleagues hope that everything will be finished on time and that all problems and disputes will be resolved immediately.
Others, however, think that Brexit will prolong and probably last a few years, given the fact that numerous disputes and legal loopholes need to be resolved. Also, this is the first time that Article 50 has been triggered in EU’s 44 year-long history, meaning that no one can accurately estimate how long will it take and how much will it cost.
In fact, before Article 50 was adopted by the EU at a 2009 summit in Lisbon, a legal mechanism for leaving EU hadn’t even existed. Article 50 itself is relatively short, made out of five paragraphs stating that “any EU member can leave the Union” and if decides to do so, needs to finish the process within two years of triggering it.
And while British diplomats and politicians already celebrate, others warn about potential dangers and drawbacks of leaving the EU. One particular decision made by the British Government sparked a debate on just how much independence Britain should pursue once it leaves the EU.
British Interior Minister Amber Rudd warned her EU colleagues that if they don’t come to an agreement, Britain could also leave Europol, European Police Investigation Agency. Several security experts and officials warned that such a decision could have dire consequences and make the whole continent more susceptible to criminal and terrorist activity.
Contrary to what the British officials and media believed, European leaders are not only willing to let UK go, but hope to get the process done as soon as possible. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, says she hopes that “the British Government will start the negotiation process as soon as possible” and that “she will give her best to minimize the effects of Brexit on the rest of Europe”.