- It has been exactly one year since Theresa May triggered Article 50 and kick-started the Brexit process.
- Notable progress has been made on several key issues, but more notable is the number and scale of the problems still to be resolved.
- Business Insider’s Brexit timeline shows the already-tight two year schedule to negotiate the broad outline of a deal has become even tighter after a year of delays and fudged commitments.
LONDON – It has been exactly one year since Theresa May triggered Article 50 and kick-started the Brexit process and now only one year remains until Britain is due to leave.
Notable progress has been made on several key issues. Negotiators in December thrashed out the terms of Britain’s separation from the EU – including the contentious issue of a £39 billion divorce bill – and in March this year they agreed the outline of a transition phase which will prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal.
However, many of the major obstacles to a smooth Brexit remain. With just a year to go until Brexit, May’s government have yet to fully explain how it will fulfil its promise to:
- Avoid a hard Irish border
- Secure a tariff-free “customs partnership” with the EU that isn’t the customs union
- Make up for the damage caused to financial services by the loss of passporting
- Register 3.7 million European nationals in the space of two years
- Arrange a trade deal with a hostile Trump administration
May and her colleagues insist that solutions to all of these issues can be found in the next 12 months. But, as Business Insider’s Brexit timeline shows, the already-tight two year schedule to negotiate the broad outline of a deal has become even tighter after a year of delays and fudged commitments.
March 2018: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”
Negotiators Michel Barnier and David Davis agreed at the European Council in March on a “large part” of the terms of an “implementation period.” That is a 20-month transition phase once Britain leaves the EU in March next year, during which the UK will be signed up to EU rules and regulations.
That agreement brought an end to “Phase 2” of the negotiations.
March to October 2018: Negotiation ping pong
However, agreeing on a “large part” means there are still major issues to be resolved. The EU’s favoured mantra is that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” That means Brussels won’t sign off a transition deal until the UK will comes up with workable solutions to the Irish border issue, Gibraltar, and other contentious parts of the draft EU Withdrawal Bill that still haven’t been agreed. This is the tricky bit.
18 – 19 October 2018: The Very Important EU Summit
This is the biggest event in the Brexit calendar. The UK and EU hope to have ironed out all remaining issues by this point, so that they can agree on two things:
1. The Withdrawal Agreement, which sets out the legal terms of Britain’s divorce from the EU. Key features will include the £39 billion divorce payment (already agreed), a solution to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, and commitments on EU citizens’ rights.
2. A political declaration on the “framework for the future relationship.” This will lay out the UK and EU’s ambitions for what their trading relationship will look like when Britain leaves. Principally, it will lay out the likely terms of a free-trade agreement, but will also touch on issues like security co-operation.
Autumn 2018: A “meaningful” vote?
The House of Commons needs to sign off a Brexit deal before Britain leaves the EU. It is unclear whether that will be before the EU council or after (government guidelines say it will be in October or November.)
Theresa May repeated her commitment to give parliament a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal. The real question that has bugged Brexit watchers for some time is whether the Conservative party’s slender majority in parliament could see rebel MPs block a deal in parliament.
However, Labour’s leadership indicated this week that it is likely to back a deal, which would make the parliamentary arithmetic much less complex for May, and turn the vote into something of a meaningless one.
March 29 2018: The UK leaves the EU
Two years after Theresa May triggered Article 50, the UK will leave the EU. That means its MEPs are no longer MEPs, and its representatives do not have a say at the Brussels negotiating table. It will enter the 20-month transition phase during which it remains signed up to EU rules and remain a member of the EU single market, with the benefits and commitments that brings, including the free movement of people.
During this time, the UK will attempt to negotiate the details of a free trade agreement with the EU, as well as other countries around the world. It will attempt to find solutions to issues including how to protect the UK’s vital financial services sector from the loss of the EU’s lucrative financial passporting regime.
December 31 2020: Transition period ends
If Theresa May sticks to her current commitments, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU’s customs union or single market. It will hope to have agreed a free-trade agreement with the EU, its largest trading partner, that limits the economic damage that results from its loss of single market access. It will also aim to have signed a raft of free-trade deals with other countries which ministers say will give Britain a significant economic boost.