THE UK and the EU are now on a countdown to B-day with both sides trying to reach a deal before the clock strikes midnight on March 29 next year.
Talks have hit a roadblock over the Irish border backstop issue. Here’s the latest.
The UK voted to leave the European Union in a move dubbed ‘Brexit’PA
What is Brexit?
Brexit comes from merging the words “Britain” and “exit”.
The term has been widely used ever since the idea of a referendum n leaving the EU was put forward.
More than 30million people voted in the June 2016 referendum with a turnout of 71.8 per cent. Leave won by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
People now talk about “soft” and “hard” Brexit in reference to how close the UK will be to the EU post separation.
The road to triggering Article 50 – which saw Britain officially start the process of leaving the EU – was paved with complications for the PM, including a Supreme Court case ruling MPs needed to vote on Brexit negotiations.
But it was finally triggered on March 29, 2017, meaning the official departure date and move into the transition phase will take place on March 29 2019.
Article 50: What it says
Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
What is the European Union and why did Britain vote to leave?
The European Union is an economic and political partnership. There are currently 28 members states including the United Kingdom.
It began as a trade group of six nations in the 1950s.
The UK first applied to join what was then the European Economic Community in 1961 and finally became a member in 1973.
Now called the European Union, it has grown to include former Soviet bloc states and has at its heart a “single market” allowing goods and people to move freely.
It has its own parliament, central bank and the euro currency used by 19 countries, with some members including Britain opting to keep their own money.
Eurocrats have been pushing for ever closer political and financial union, which could include a European Army separate from the Nato alliance.
Those in favour of leaving said Britain was being held back by EU red tape with too many rules on business.
They also campaigned on the issue of sovereignty and said they wanted Britain to take back full control of its borders.
Beyond the question of ceasing to be a member of the EU, what Brexit actually means in practice has been the subject of intense debate ever since.
When will the UK officially leave the European Union?
Theresa May officially triggered Article 50 on March 29, after which there is a two-year time limit set for negotiations to hammer out the details.
The UK will therefore leave the EU by March 29, 2019, although there is a 21-month “transition period”.
Negotiations began on June 19, with the two chief negotiators, Michel Barnier of the EU and former Brexit Secretary David Davis, immediately setting off to find common ground.
Some of the “uncertainties” being discussed include citizens living in each other’s territory, border arrangements between Ireland and the UK and the amount Britain stands to pay to honour its existing EU commitments.
Dominic Raab was in Paris to try and persuade critics of Mrs May’s soft Brexit planEPA
What is a transition period and how long will it last?
This is a bridging agreement between the current situation – where we are members of the EU – and our long-term relationship outside the bloc.
Also known as an “implementation phase”, it allows for the UK to keep some of the same arrangements with Brussels on trade and other matters until a new comprehensive trade agreement is sealed.
In March 2018, Britain secured a transition deal that will also allow ministers to seek trade agreements around the globe.
The UK will also be free to set its own foreign policy as soon as Brexit happens, as well as negotiate and sign new trade deals anywhere in the world – to implement them in 2021.
However EU chiefs made it clear the period, which allows the UK to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, will only come into force if the Irish border is sorted.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier unveiled terms for the 21 month period interim period.
The UK will not be fully out of the EU until December 31, 2020 – four and a half years after the historic referendum decision.
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What’s the latest with Brexit talks?
In an effort to speed up talks and avoid massive no-deal spending, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab declared that he expects an agreement by November 21 — sending the Pound soaring.
Unfortunately only a few hours later, a second statement from Raab’s office said: “There is no set date for the negotiations to conclude” – drawing ire from Labour.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “This must be one of the quickest u-turns in political history. @DominicRaab told MPs that a Brexit deal would be done by the end of November. Three hours later his own department was forced to correct the record. What a mess.”
On October 15 it emerged Raab had held unscheduled talks in Brussels – but they broke down over an “impasse” on the Irish border backstop.
Mrs May insisted negotiations are nearly completed, but admitted “cool heads” were needed to finish the job.
She told the MPs Britain and the EU are now “not far apart” on the key question of the Irish border as she blasted Jeremy Corbyn for wanting to “frustrate Brexit”.
EU leaders are due to meet later in the week to discuss progress towards a deal. It was not clear if the PM would be invited to address the meeting as she has previously.
Brussels chiefs have signalled this week is the unofficial deadline to get a deal on the table so it can be signed off by leaders at an emergency summit in November.
Any deal would lay out the exit terms, including a statement of Britain’s future relationship, but a not yet a full trade treaty.
The Irish border is still the key sticking points in talks, although there has been progress on matters of security and defence.
On September 2, 2018, Theresa May said “giving in” to calls for a second Brexit referendum on the final terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would be “a gross betrayal of our democracy”.
The Prime Minister comments, published in the Sunday Telegraph, came as she dismissed calls from the People’s Vote, a cross-party group that includes several high-profile figures and MPs, for a second Brexit vote.
She said that the coming months were “critical in shaping the future of our country”, adding that she remained “confident” that the government could strike “a good deal”, but in the event of a no-deal, Britain would “be ready if we need to be” and “go on to thrive”.
Former Tory Brexit minister Steve Baker has warned that May would “lack credibility” if she pressed ahead with her plans and thought around 80 MPs would reject her Chequers proposal.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith also said the Chequers proposal was “unacceptable” to most Tory MPs and was “essentially dead”.