During Monday, the United Kingdom began negotiations with the European Union on exiting the EU, and unravelling its 44-year marriage.
London is due to leave the Union by the end of March 2019, or two years after the procedure to leave the EU was officially started by Mrs May, on March 29th this year.
In a joint communiqué the Brexit Minister, David Davis, and the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, declared that they “have agreed that negotiations should start on Monday June 19th.”
This date had been agreed before the anticipated General Election in the UK on June 8th. However the Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May, lost her absolute majority. She is thus in the process of finalising a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), so as to form a government majority. All of this raised fears that the schedule would be put back.
A diplomatic source in Brussels confirmed that the negotiations between Messrs Barnier and Davis would start at 9 a.m. BST (10 a.m. CET) today. A joint press conference is anticipated for 4 p.m. BST (5 p.m. CET).
The first stage, which is due to start today, will be devoted to finding an agreement around the three matters prioritised by the 27. These are the post-Brexit position of European ex-patriates in the United Kingdom and British ex-patriates, the question of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and the “financial settlement”. The latter is the payment by the United Kingdom of all financial commitments already undertaken within the EU.
Mr Barnier indicated at the end of May that he is hoping for agreement upon the three points “between October and December 2017.” This will make it possible to begin the second phase of discussions, on the framework of future commercial relations between London and the EU between “December 2017 and Spring 2018”.
The withdrawal agreement will be finalised “around October 2018”. This means that there would then remain a further six months, until March 2019, the anticipated date of the United Kingdom’s effective departure. This would allow time “to complete the ratification process” of the divorce agreement by all parties. All of this is per Mr Barnier’s wishes.
On June 23rd, 2016, the British voted by nearly 52% in favour of exiting mainstream Europe. This caused shock amongst their European neighbours and a political earthquake in the United Kingdom, the after-shocks of which are still being felt to this day.