British PM signs letter invoking Article 50, Brexit negotiations to start

Brexit was triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday night, starting the United Kingdom’s negotiations to leave the European Union. The letter signed by May will be delivered to the European Council in Brussels at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday local time (6:30 a.m. Wednesday ET), ITV News reported.

The UK negotiations with the EU will work out the details of the departure. The UK is also dealing with the political ramifications of Brexit in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

British PM Theresa May signs the letter invoking Article 50, March 28, 2017. (Christopher Furlong / Pool via AP)

Negotiations

Upon delivery of the letter triggering article 50 on Wednesday, there will be two years of talks allowed under the treaty of Lisbon.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are concerned by reports that the British government wants 29 March to be the “cut-off date” for free movement and employment of EU citizens.

A resolution on the MEPs demands in the negotiations will be voted on in the EU parliament next Wednesday. The resolution has been amended to rule out “degradation” of the rights of EU nationals arriving in the UK over the next two years.

The Guardian has reported that MEPs will also demand that a trade deal can only be sealed after the UK leaves, mirroring the position of the European commission.

Parliament is expected to insist the European Court of Justice should be the authority for the interpretation and enforcement of the withdrawal agreement.

MEPs will say that Britain should be allowed to reverse its decision to leave the EU, but only on the terms decreed by 27 EU member states. This is intended to ensure that revocation of article 50 would not be used by the UK to buy more negotiating time.

Parliament will demand that the UK’s multibillion pound financial liabilities, including commitments to projects beyond 2019, should be paid in full.

Disunited Kingdom

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is calling for a vote on leaving the UK, a rerun of a vote in September of 2014. The SNP lost the vote in 2014, but Scotland voted overwhelming to stay in the EU, and the Brexit vote is seen to have strengthened the position of the voices for Scottish independence.

Sturgeon wants to hold a vote between fall 2018 and spring 2019, which she says would give enough time for Brexit negotiations to make progress. It would also mean that Scotland wouldn’t be taken out of the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May disagrees with this, saying that a vote on Scotland’s independence combined with the Brexit negotiation would leave Scots unsure on the details of what they were voting for. Her sound bite on this position is: “Now is not the time.”

Brexit vote mapped by BBC.

Meanwhile, the Brexit vote has destabilized governance in Northern Ireland.

Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein pulled out of government in January, leading to a March 2nd election ending the majority pro-British unionists had in the province for almost a century. Three weeks since the election, no government has been formed in Northern Ireland.

“We do not want to see a return to direct rule,” Northern Ireland minister James Brokenshire said in the British parliament on Tuesday. “But should talks not succeed in their objective, the government will have to consider all options.”

If no government is formed, the British parliament will fill the power vacuum when it returns from its Easter recess on April 18, by legislating to set local taxes on homes and businesses, he said.

Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists, who lost power in January, formed a peace deal in 1998, ending a conflict that killed 3,600 people over three decades. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that borders the EU, and Brexit would severely disrupt its economy.

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