Brexit Tracker – The Key Brexit  Questions Answered

Brexit The Channel Group When will article 50 be triggered? Will the UK leave the single market?

Welcome to our Brexit Tracker – we will summarise what is known so far about the UK’s Brexit plan.

When will Article 50 be triggered? When will the UK leave the EU? Will the UK leave the single market? Will the UK leave the Customs Union?

The Prime Minister has been tight-lipped about her negotiating strategy so far, but we will update this guide as more details emerge.

When will Article 50 be triggered?

In short: March 2017

Article 50 will by the end of March 2017, according to Prime Minister Theresa May.

This process could be delayed by the ongoing political upheaval in Northern Ireland, who’s parliament will be required to give consent.

When will the UK leave the EU?

In short: March/April 2019

As every schoolchild can tell you, the UK will leave the EU 2 years after Article 50 is triggered.

However, just like everything else associated with Britain leaving the EU, it isn’t that straightforward. Despite the UK leaving after 2 years being by far and away the most likely outcome, there are 2 other options:

  • Earlier, if a withdrawal agreement comes into force, or
  • Later, if all current EU Member States agree.

Will the UK leave the single market?

In short: Yes [Confirmed]

Theresa May confirmed that the UK would leave the Single Market in her Brexit Speech on 17 January:

What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the EU’s Single Market.

European leaders have said many times that membership means accepting the “four freedoms” of goods, capital, services and people. And being out of the EU but a member of the Single Market would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations that implement those freedoms, without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. It would mean accepting a role for the European Court of Justice that would see it still having direct legal authority in our country.

It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all.

And that is why both sides in the referendum campaign made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the Single Market.

So we do not seek membership of the Single Market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

As we have outlined before, it always looked highly likely that the UK would cease to be a member of the single market. Until 17 January, Theresa May had given little detail on this point, but did outline two red lines: she wanted the UK to be in control of immigration from the EU, and she wanted to free the UK from the ECJ’s jurisdiction.

What we predicted:

Will the UK leave the single market? Yes

When considering the red lines that Theresa May had laid down and the criteria of single market membership, it was clear that the UK would leave. 

Will the UK leave the Customs Union?

In short: Yes [Confirmed] and No [To be negotiated]

Theresa May confirmed that the UK would cease to be a member the Customs Union in its current form. May said that the UK would no longer be part of the Common Commercial Policy of Common External Tariff. This would allow the UK to negotiate its own free trade deals with the rest of the world.

However, she said that she wanted the ‘freest possible trade’ with Europe, and was open to a new customs agreement that ensured this.

That means I do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff.  These are the elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries.  But I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU.

Whether that means we must reach a completely new customs agreement, become an associate member of the Customs Union in some way, or remain a signatory to some elements of it, I hold no preconceived position. I have an open mind on how we do it. It is not the means that matter, but the ends.

What we predicted:

Will the UK leave the customs union? Probably

This is more complicated than the single market and no detail has been given yet. Philip Hammond prefers remaining in the Customs union and has indicated that the UK would lower taxes to aggressively compete with the EU for business if it lost access to the Customs Union.

Access to the Customs union comes with a cost though, in the form of a Common External Tariff. Theresa May has possibly indicated that she is against this and would prefer a clean break with the EU.

Will there be transitional arrangements?

In short: Yes [Confirmed]

Theresa may has confirmed that she intends to secure transitional arrangements for the UK. She said that these arrangements would not be permanent and would vary between industries. This is mainly to give businesses certainty and time to adjust to the new business environment.

It is in no one’s interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU. By this, I do not mean that we will seek some form of unlimited transitional status, in which we find ourselves stuck forever in some kind of permanent political purgatory. That would not be good for Britain, but nor do I believe it would be good for the EU.

Instead, I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest. This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.

This might be about our immigration controls, customs systems or the way in which we cooperate on criminal justice matters. Or it might be about the future legal and regulatory framework for financial services. For each issue, the time we need to phase-in the new arrangements may differ. Some might be introduced very quickly, some might take longer. And the interim arrangements we rely upon are likely to be a matter of negotiation.

But the purpose is clear: we will work to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge, and we will do everything we can to phase in the new arrangements we require as Britain and the EU move towards our new partnership.

What we predicted:

Will there be transitional arrangements? Probably

Transitional arrangements would see the UK leave the EU over a longer period of time and avoid ‘cliff-edge’ that some have warned about. This approach is favoured by some businesses, as it will allow necessary changes to be made over a longer period.

Theresa May has said that she “will discuss whether we need an implementation phase”. The House of Commons Brexit Committee has strongly suggested that there should be a transitional period. However, whether transitionary arrangements are made will depend on the EU’s negotiating position. It doesn’t have to offer the UK any leeway, but don’t forget that the EU benefit from these arrangements too.

The Channel Group

The Channel Group is an independent think tank established to champion free trade.

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