Theresa May spoke before the British Parliament on Wednesday after formally submitting a letter to sitting European Union President Donald Tusk triggering Article 50, the never-before used mechanism written into the EU’s framework that initiates a member state’s departure from the union.
In May’s speech, she remarked:
We understand that there will be consequences for the UK of leaving the EU. We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy. We know that UK companies that trade with the EU will have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part, just as we do in other overseas markets. We accept that.
Last June, the British population voted in a referendum on whether or not Britain should remain in the EU. To the surprise of many, the “Yes” vote won, marking a victory for the fear-mongering, nationalist far-right that is on the ascent across Europe.
The preference for leaving, however, was not shared by all. Majorities in both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay. In Scotland, the “No” vote attracted a sizable majority, which is a leading factor in the recent announcement from Nicola Sturgeon – first minister of Scotland – that there would be a new Scottish independence vote in the coming years.
This could force May to make concessions to the EU in order to placate the pro-EU Scottish. No prime minister wants to preside over the end of Great Britain.
Even in Northern Ireland – which has, historically, maintained a very pro-British stance – there are growing calls for separation from Britain in response to the near-sided decision to leave the EU bloc.
Now that Article 50 has been triggered, British and EU officials will essentially enter negotiations about negotiations. There are a number of topics that each party will discuss in the coming two years, including whether or not Britain will retain some form of special access to the EU common market, what will happen to the millions of EU citizens residing in England and elsewhere in the British Isles, and whether or not Britain will continue following certain legal frameworks laid out by EU statutes.
Nothing is certain about the outcome. Analysts agree that the negotiations – and, potentially, the future of the EU itself – will be heavily influenced by the results of upcoming nationwide elections in France and Germany. A victory for the far-right in either country would fundamentally shake-up expectations and could potentially drive the EU closer to the brink of dissolution.
But this is mere specilation – there are simply so any moving parts, it’s impossible to guess what will happen.
What we do know is that things are already off to a rough start for Britain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already shot down May’s plan to simultaneously negotiate trade and secession. In remarks to reporters, Merkel stated that the
negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship… and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.
EU 1, Britain 0. May’s government is already up against the ropes. Stay tuned for more details as this two-year-long drama unfolds.
Watch: May’s statement to the British people
— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) March 29, 2017