UK/Europe – Brexit triggered

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe. Article 50 (Brexit) formally triggered.


Summary from Gezza

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered the formal two-year process of negotiations that will lead to Britain leaving the European Union (EU) after more than 40 years. A letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and officially notifying the EU of Britain’s decision to withdraw from the bloc was hand-delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels by British Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow on Wednesday. Copies are to be sent to the other 27 EU member states.

In a speech to parliament designed to coincide with the letter’s delivery, May urged the country to come together as it embarks on a “momentous journey”.

“We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” she said. May told MPs she wanted to represent “every person in the UK”, including EU nationals, in negotiations.

She acknowledged there would be “consequences” to leaving, and she said the UK accepts it cannot “cherry pick”, and stay in the single market without accepting free movement.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said there was “no reason to pretend this is a happy day”. “We already miss you,” he said, adding there was “nothing to win” and that, now, the Brexit process was about damage control.

Britain voted to leave the EU last June. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, while England and Wales, with a much larger combined population, voted to leave.

May’s speech attempted to strike a delicate balancing act. She was talking to the audience across Europe, but also to a wide range of opinion in the country – trying to assuage the disappointment of the ‘remainers’, but also to rein in some of the hardline Eurosceptic ‘leavers’ – many of whom belong to her own party… and a conservative-dominated press in this country who are much more gung-ho about the terms of Brexit.

May has promised to take Britain out of the EU single market but negotiate a deal that keeps close trade relations with Europe, as she builds “a strong, self-governing global Britain” with control over its own borders and laws. 

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Britain was “on the threshold of the most important negotiation” for Britain “for a generation”.

Challenges ahead

The EU is expected to issue a first response to Britain on Friday, followed by a summit of EU leaders on April 29 to adopt their own guidelines – meaning it could be weeks before formal talks start. Their priority is settling Britain’s outstanding obligations, estimated between 55 and 60 billion euros [$59bn and $65bn] – an early battle that could set the tone for the rest of the negotiations.

Europeans in UK face uncertain future after Brexit

Both sides have also said they are keen to resolve the status of more than three million European nationals living in Britain after Brexit, and one million British expats living in the EU.

The two sides also want to ensure Brexit does not exacerbate tensions in Northern Ireland , the once-troubled province that will become Britain’s only hard border with the rest of the EU.

Britain also wants to reach a new free trade agreement within the two-year timeframe, although it has conceded that a transitional deal might be necessary to allow Britain to adapt to its new reality.

Many business leaders are deeply uneasy about May’s decision to leave Europe’s single market, a free trade area of 500 million people, fearing its impact on jobs and economic growth. The Brexit vote sent the pound plunging, although economic growth has been largely stable since then.

On Tuesday, Scotland’s semi-autonomous parliament backed a call by its nationalist government for a new referendum on independence before Brexit. Scotland’s devolved administration is particularly concerned about leaving Europe’s single market – the price May says must be paid to end mass immigration, a key voter concern.

The prime minister rebuffed the referendum request and has vowed to fight for a new relationship with Brussels that will leave Britain stronger and more united than before.

The EU, too, is determined to preserve its own unity and has said any Brexit deal must not encourage other countries to follow Britain out the door. With the challenges ahead, there is a chance that negotiations will break down and Britain will be forced out of the EU without any deal in place. This could be damaging for both sides, by erecting trade barriers where none now exist as well as creating huge legal uncertainty.

From The Telegraph:

What happens now?

The leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states will hold an emergency meeting on April 29 to agree a common response to Britain’s demands.
The meeting will happen just days before the French election and mean there will no negotiations for a month.

Mr Tusk will then reply from the council to Mrs May after about six weeks, making clear the EU’s negotiating position, formally sounding the starting gun on talks. With both sides having set out their demands, talks will begin between British officials and bureaucrats from the European Commission about the terms of Britain’s exit.

At a glance | What is Article 50?

* Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any EU member the right to quit unilaterally, and outlines the procedure for doing so
* There was no way to legally leave the EU before the Treaty was signed in 2007
* It gives the leaving country two years to negotiate an exit deal
* Once set in motion, it cannot be stopped except by unanimous consent of all member states
* Any deal must be approved by a “qualified majority” of EU member states and can be vetoed by the European Parliament

“The House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly for us to get on with it. And the overwhelming majority of people – however they voted – want us to get on with it too.” – Theresa May, January 2017

How will the EU respond?

Theresa May was given a foretaste of the rocky road ahead on Tuesday when European leaders went on the attack, telling her they will veto any attempt to curtail migrants’ rights before the withdrawal takes place in 2019.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned Mrs May that any “unilateral decision” to limit the rights of EU citizens in the UK “would be contrary to EU law” and would be “vigorously” opposed.

However, The Daily Telegraph understands that while Mrs May’s letter to Mr Tusk will include a broad outline of her negotiating position, it will not contain any mention of a cut-off date for migrants’ rights.

Is it reversible?

The Government argues that the decision to trigger Article 50 is irreversible because David Cameron promised to act on will of voters and respect the outcome of June’s referendum.

The question of irrevocability was raised during a Supreme Court hearing on the right of  Parliament to give its approval to trigger the process of leaving the EU.

Jeremy Wright QC, who represented Theresa May, argued:
“We do not argue that an Article 50 notice can be revoked and we would like the court to proceed on the basis a notification is irrevocable.”

He added that “parliament’s role in the process” of leaving the EU does not just stop after Article 50 is triggered.

Lord Kerr, who devised the clause in the Lisbon Treaty, has argued the country “might want to think again” when the details of the Prime Minister’s deal with the EU emerge.

Analysis: What does it actually mean for Europe? 

Britain’s departure leaves a substantial hole in the EU which now loses the world’s fifth-largest economy, a nuclear power and a member of the UN Security Council, writes our Europe Editor, Peter Foster.

Much will depend on the kind of relationship Britain establishes with the EU after Brexit. Theresa May has signaled she wants to use the UK military power and diplomatic heft as a way of the UK demonstrating it is committed to maintaining security “in the neighbourhood”.

If negotiations turn nasty, and talks break down, it may take some time to build the diplomatic apparatus to allow Britain to contribute to “European” diplomacy from outside the EU.

The result is likely to be less influence for both the EU and the UK in a fracturing global architecture where bilateralism is on the rise and the US is increasingly unwilling to play the world’s policeman.

UK and Scottish parliaments clash over second referendum

UK Prime Minister has repeatedly said that “now is not the time” for another Scottish referendum on independence, but the Scottish Parliament has just voted in favour of “seeking permission” for a referendum before the UK leaves the European Union.

BBC: Scottish Parliament backs referendum call

Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum on independence for Scotland had been formally backed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU.

Ms Sturgeon says the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But the UK government has already said it will block a referendum until the Brexit process has been completed.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who met Ms Sturgeon for talks in Glasgow on Monday, has repeatedly insisted that “now is not the time” for a referendum.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is not seeking confrontation.

“My argument is simply this: when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change.

“The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit – possibly a very hard Brexit – or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands.”

She added: “I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament. If it does so, I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise.

“However, if it chooses not to do so I will return to the parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish government will take to progress the will of parliament.”

But this looks like a clash of wills between her and Theresa May, and between the Scottish and UK parliaments.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to make the formal request for a section 30 later this week – after Mrs May formally starts the Brexit process by triggering Article 50.

Scottish voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% in a referendum in 2014, but Ms Sturgeon believes the UK voting to leave the EU is a material change in circumstances which means people should again be asked the question.

There certainly has been a material change in circumstances.

While May and her UK government prefers no split it may make sense to find out if that is what the Scots want and take that into account with exit plans from the EU.

Her Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has said that the timescale could include “the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK’s new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum”.

He added: “We are not entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process.

The Scottish Parliament vote may or may not change that position.

There may be some chicken and egg here.

Would plans for the UK exit from the EU be easier if they knew whether Scotland was going to split or remain?

Or should another Scottish referendum wait until they know what the exit from the EU is going to look like for them and the UK?



Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.


BBC: London attacker’s wife condemns actions

The wife of Westminster attacker Khalid Masood has said she is “saddened and shocked” and condemned his actions.

In a statement issued through police, Rohey Hydara expressed her condolences to the families of the dead and wished a “speedy recovery” to those injured.


UK & Europe – the Brexit process

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.


The Guardian explains the Brexit process.

What is article 50?

In just 264 words in five paragraphs, article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

What is ‘triggered’ by article 50?

Once a country gives notice it wants to leave it has two years to negotiate new arrangements, after which it will no longer be subject to EU treaties.

How and when will article 50 be triggered?

The Brexit starting pistol is fired on Wednesday 29 March, when the government delivers a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

Then what?

On Thursday the Brexit secretary, David Davis, will publish the government’s “great repeal bill”. This will set out an end to the authority of EU law by converting all its provisions in British law once the UK leaves.

How will the EU respond?

Tusk has promised that he will respond by Friday with “draft Brexit guidelines”.

How long will they take?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he envisages there being less than 18 months of real negotiating time. The crucial window is likely to be the year from October 2017, after the German elections on 24 September.

What are the key sticking points?

It’s a long list, and even the topics for negotiation are subject to negotiation.

For example, the UK wants trade talks to be part of the leave discussions, but senior figures in the EU think trade should be discussed separately. While the UK is still part of the EU it is not allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.

Another key topic that will need urgent resolution will be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British subjects living abroad. The government ruled out giving EU citizens guaranteed protections before the start of talks, giving rise to fears that they will be used as bargaining chips.

Other pressing but tricky issues include security, migration and border controls.

Brexit: everything you need to know about how the UK will leave the EU

UK & Europe

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.


UK & Europe

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.


UK can’t blame EU for problems that led to Brexit, says Juncker

British politicians sowed the seeds for Brexit by blaming the European Union for problems over which the bloc has little control and while building an economy dependent on foreign labour, the president of the European commission has said.

Writing exclusively for the Guardian as EU leaders meet to celebrate the bloc’s 60th anniversary in Rome, Jean-Claude Juncker warns that “for too long” politicians at a national level have allowed the EU to be a scapegoat, and that the consequences can now be seen.

Putin welcomes Le Pen to Moscow with a nudge and a wink

The expression said it all. Even by Vladimir Putin’s standards, it was a knowing smirk of epic proportions as he shook hands with Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday.

In his remarks, Putin noted that France was currently involved in an election cycle and that Russia did “not want to influence events in any way”. The sentiment sounded slightly less than genuine given that it came as part of a one-on-one Kremlin meeting with the far-right presidential candidate one month before the vote.

The mixed messaging appears to be a deliberate strategy, and is similar to some of the Russian rhetoric around the allegations that the Kremlin intervened to get Donald Trump elected. There is both an outburst of fury at those who would dare to voice such allegations, and a simultaneous revelling in them.

Back in December, Putin first said it was absurd to suggest Russia intervened on Trump’s behalf, but immediately followed up by saying “nobody believed in him, except us”.

What we knowThe attack, the victims and the investigation

Here is what the Guardian has been able to confirm:

  • Five people have died, including a police officer and the attacker.
  • Police say at least 50 people were injured, with 31 requiring hospital treatment. Two of these remain in a critical condition, one of whom has life-threatening injuries. Two police officers are among those still in hospital.
  • The assailant was Khalid Masood, 52, who was born in Kent with the birth name Adrian Russell Ajao. He was believed to have been living recently in the West Midlands.
  • He drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three people – two of whom died at the scene and one who died of his injuries in hospital – before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the building, armed with two knives.
  • He stabbed an unarmed police officer who later died from the injuries. Police then shot the attacker. The dead officer was identified as PC Keith Palmer, 48, who had 15 years of service with the parliamentary and diplomatic protection service and was a husband and father.
  • Another victim was named as Aysha Frade, 43, who worked at a sixth-form college in Westminster. The mother of two had family in Betanzos, Galicia, north-west Spain, and her death was confirmed by the mayor of the town.
  • A third person killed by the attacker was named as Kurt Cochran, a tourist from Utah in the US. He and his wife, Melissa, were on the last day of a trip to Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Melissa remains in hospital with serious injuries.
  • On Friday, police said a fourth victim, Leslie Rhodes, 75, from Clapham in south London, had died in hospital overnight. He was a retired window cleaner who had apparently been crossing the bridge to catch a bus after visiting a friend in St Thomas’ hospital.
  • The Metropolitan police said Masood had a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences. His most recent was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.
  • Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. It released a statement through the Amaq news agency, which it uses to broadcast propaganda, calling the attacker “a soldier of Islamic State”. The claim is unverified.
  • The attacker is believed to have acted alone but police are investigating possible associates. May said there was no reason to believe further attacks on the public were planned.
  • Police have searched several addresses in Birmingham, London and other parts of the country. Five men and three women were arrested overnight on Wednesday and early on Thursday on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts. Two men were arrested overnight on Thursday – one in the West Midlands and one in north-west England – and a woman was detained in Manchester on Friday morning. Ten people remain in custody after one woman was released on bail.

The list goes on.

UK & Europe – London terrorism

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.


Man arrested in Antwerp after driving at high speed towards a crowd of people in the main shopping street. (1342 GMT)

BBC reporting the man is of North African origin

The attacker has been named as 52 year old Khalid Masood after ISIS claimed him as one of their soldiers

Aljaz: More info since released. 52 years old, came originally from Kent, then lived in Birmingham, West Midlands, has previous convictions for violent offences, last came to attention of authorities in 2003.

He is apparently from Birmingham, which goes with other reporting this morning that said neighbours of one of the residences searched by police in Birmingham thought that the person in the flat might be the attacker.

  • Missy & Geeza


UK & Europe


Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK & Europe


Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK & Europe


Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.