She’ll make it come true, like she always does: Article 50 has been triggered.
“We all want a country that is fairer so that everyone has the chance to succeed. We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. We all want to live in a truly Global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world.” — Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Today is really a day of vindication. Both the detractors on the Eurofederalist side, and the detractors on the disruptive Alt-Right ‘Big Europe’ Russophile side had said that this day would never come and that the United Kingdom would descend into either chaos on the one hand or compromise on the other.
But to their manifest displeasure this day has indeed come.
The United Kingdom has formally given the EU notification that it intends to leave the bloc.
Sir Tim Barrow, UK ambassador to the EU, handed the written letter to European Council president Donald Tusk today.
The moment that the letter was accepted, the notification to leave was triggered.
The UK now has two years to negotiate an agreement with the 27 remaining EU countries over its future relationship with the bloc.
Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back.”
She made the announcement as Article 50 was formally invoked when the letter Mrs May had signed was received by EU Council President Donald Tusk. She told MPs in the House of Commons this morning that she believes Britain’s “best days lie ahead”.
The Prime Minister said she would work for the “best possible deal” for Britain after Article 50 was formally triggered.
She added: “Now is the time for us to come together to be united across this House and across this country.”
A statement issued by the European Council said the talks would start by focusing on arrangements for an “orderly withdrawal” from the bloc.
The council, pledged to approach the talks constructively and hoped the UK would be a “close partner” after Brexit.
“We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow.
“Our first priority will be to minimise the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states.”
Who will our key negotiators be?
Over the next two years the United Kingdom and the European Union will attempt to negotiate the details of a potential Brexit deal and shape the possible future of UK-European relations.
The main negotiators for the United Kingdom will be:
As the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis is responsible for the work of the Government’s Department for Exiting the European Union.
This department is responsible for overseeing negotiations to leave the EU and establishing future relations between the UK and the bloc.
Having been appointed to the role in July 2016, Mr Davis helped get the Article 50 Bill through Parliament, which allowed Theresa May to formally trigger Brexit earlier this month.
The Haltemprice and Howden MP will now play a key role in delivering what Britain wants from negotiations.
He will have to work closely with Parliament and the devolved powers across the UK to ensure the Brexit process is as smooth as possible.
Sir Tim ‘Deepstate’ Barrow
Sir Tim Barrow is Britain’s ambassador to the EU and assumes “overall responsibility” for the UK’s departure from the bloc.
He took up the position in January, having replaced Sir Ivan Rogers. Sir Ivan Rogers had been induced to quit after he had committed the cardinal diplomatic sin of publicly criticising what he erroneously viewed as the Government’s “muddled thinking” over Brexit.
As head of the UK’s permanent representation to the EU, it is now Sir Tim Barrow’s role to ensure Britain’s policies are explained to EU member states.
Sir Tim Barrow’s 30-year political career has included two prior terms serving in Brussels, and he will represent the UK in weekly meetings at the European Council in Belgium.
Today, he arrived in the Belgian capital to deliver Britain’s Article 50 letter, signed by Theresa May, to European Council president Donald Tusk.
Sir Tim Barrow is more than prepared for the job that has been assigned to him. Having also been former ambassador to Moscow is something that has given him extensive experience dealing with completely insufferable 1990s-era Adidas tracksuit-wearing swinehounds, and this means that he is prepared for almost anything. Having seen the worst of continental European diplomats already, there is nothing that can now surprise or intimidate him.
It has been said that Sir Tim Barrow “knows everyone and everything” and is very well respected and liked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Sir Tim Barrow’s nickname in the Foreign Office is ‘Deepstate’, because he is so well embedded in diplomatic circles.
Crucially, he has a very good relationship with Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary Boris Johnson. For those who understand the recent history of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the war of all against all that Boris Johnson has been inciting and waging both before and after his own appointment to that office, the fact that Barrow and Johnson are actually friends with each other is a very good sign. It means that there will be actual coordination and joined-up thinking going on.
Oliver Robbins is the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Exiting the European Union and he will work closely with David Davis.
Mr Robbins’ prime responsibility will be to support the department in the negotiations to leave the EU and help establish future relations.
In his role, he will help the Government to examine its options for future relations outside the EU, with Europe, and the rest of the world, as well as responsibility for the wider European and Global Issues Secretariat.
Mr Robbins is a seasoned civil servant.
Article 50 letter
These are the key sections of the Prime Minister’s letter which seem to warrant the most scrutiny:
This is what is called colloquially, ‘swallowing the medicine in one gulp’. The acquis communautaire will be repatriated in full into the United Kingdom in one step. After that, it will then be possible for the British parliamentary system to begin to repeal or amend whatever elements of the repatriated acquis communautaire that they feel the need to. It also allows for a smoother exit because the elements of the body of law that do not need to be altered, can be kept in place in the exact way that they are written.
In that section, Theresa May is signalling that she intends to move the United Kingdom toward a more federal structure. This is particularly for maintaining stability, as it is known that there are both internal and external pressures that will be brought to bear to try to break up the United Kingdom in this time of both opportunity and vulnerability.
To avert that possibility, offering greater federalism to the four nations of the United Kingdom will enable the central government to neutralise the soft middle in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.
It also supplies a black-and-white text counter argument which can be waved in the face of outside news organisations, for example RT, who have since 2014 been trying to promote Scottish independence in the hopes that they can weaken London. Scottish independence is something that will never be allowed to succeed.
This is a key difference between her strategy and the strategy that had previously been taken by David Cameron.
Cameron had made the crucial mistake of signalling that he wanted some kind of deal no matter what, and this emboldened the continental European negotiators on the other side of the table.
Theresa May is making no such mistake. Her statement plays game theory correctly. Theresa May is signalling here that while she would not want to leave the negotiations without a deal, she is actually willing to do so.
In fact, this, coupled with the last few months of ‘hard Brexit’ media coverage and her statements to the media which reinforced this, place her in a perfect position. The fact that very little is publicly known about what goes on in the inner space of her thoughts also makes it more difficult for continental European negotiators to know how to approach her. She is ‘difficult’, as all students of Geography are, and that is a good thing.
The United Kingdom is maintaining that it will not seek membership of the European single market, because to do so would be to accept ‘freedom of movement’, which the precise thing that Brexit is being initated to escape from.
The mention of ‘third countries around the world’ appears in the letter, and is a reference to what Theresa May called ‘the fastest growing export markets’, in her House of Commons statement.
House of Commons statement
The most salient elements of Theresa May’s House of Commons statement I would submit are the following:
The ‘fastest growing export markets in the world’ are ASEAN+3 and SAARC in Asia, and the Pacific Alliance in Central and South America.
This is a prelude of things to come. It means that what Theresa May is doing is flipping the script on the continental Europeans. Any hesitancy on their part to reach agreement during the economic element of the negotiations will be cast by the United Kingdom as “the European Union backsliding and regressing into protectionism.” It’s a good way to approach it, and it will be infuriating to the continental Europeans. Extra infuriation can be added by comparing the continental Europeans unfavourably to any of the non-European countries which the United Kingdom will also be trying to negotiate trade deals with.
That kind of talking point would take the form of “This other random country here is so eager to uphold the liberal free trade order which has prevailed since the mid-1970s, why aren’t you as agreeable as they are? Just do what we want you to do!”
We’ve all been waiting for this moment for so long. Theresa May has always been by our side.
She’ll make it come true, like she always does.
Kumiko Oumae works in the defence and security sector in the UK. Her opinions here are entirely her own.
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