It’s official : British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered a divorce with the EU on Wednesday after she delivered her Article 50 letter to European Council’s President Donald Tusk. The document formally begins the United-Kingdom’s departure from the European Union as well as the two-year negotiations of the terms of the separation. But what are the main points in the six-page notification ?
So sorry that we’re leaving…
At the very beginning of her letter, Theresa May insisted on the fact that Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union was indeed « no rejection of the [European] values, nor an attempt to do harm to the EU ». The sentence seems somewhat ironic, especially if we take the time to observe how much Brexit has affected the European territory as a whole (and the Europeans citizens themselves) and how it has inspired populists from other Member states, such as France or the Netherlands, to call for a referendum on EU membership. The United-Kingdom is now fulfilling the British people’s democratic decision, and not only does Europe’s future look uncertain, but so does the island’s, particularly now that the call for a second Scottish independence referendum by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been validated by the British Parliament. « We hope the European Union remains strong and prosperous… without us« , this is more or less how the first part of the Article 50 letter could be summed up.
…But let’s stay partners anyway !
Although May firmly declared in her speech in the House of Commons that « this [was] a historic moment from which there [could] be no turning back« , she also reminded that the British were obviously in favour of remaining « committed partners and allies » to the European bloc, which can be interpreted by the fact that the country mostly wants to stay a trade partner by the way it focuses on keeping the single market and its benefits. Needless to say, Jean-Claude Juncker himself refused this Nothing-but-the-single-market idea several times when asked about the kind of future partnership the European Union would undertake with Britain. This time though, the British Prime Minister called Donald Tusk for a « deep and special partnership that takes both economic and security cooperation » with the EU.
Furthermore, she underlined the ongoing responsibilities of the UK until it definitely leaves the Union : « We will of course fulfil our responsibilities as a member state while we remain a member of the European Union, and the legislation we propose will not come into effect until we leave« . This way, Theresa May tried to reassure the Europeans by showing her will to respect the rights of all EU citizens living in the United-Kingdom – a topic which she develops further in the notification.
We need to talk though…
Nevertheless, Theresa May seemed determined to make her voice heard as she often repeated in the document that the terms of the future UK-EU relationship should come first in the negotiations. This point is definitely a burning issue for Brussels, which would rather negotiate the terms of the divorce in the first place.
Moreover, the European Union and Britain both agree that citizens’ rights (which means the rights of the citizens of the remaining Member states living in the United-Kingdom and the rights of the UK citizens living in the EU) should be guaranteed regardless of Brexit, even though this issue isn’t the Britain’s top priority. Regarding trade, the leaving country is also ready to reach a « bold and ambitious free trade agreement » with the European Union in order to protect the investors and businesses, both in the UK and in the Member states.
Finally, it’s a fact : the United-Kingdom does not wish to ruin its relationship with Ireland because of Brexit, nor the peace process in Northern Ireland. Will Britain be more disunited from the European Union or from its territory itself ? We will soon see if the discussions on Brexit are to be « smooth and successful« , as Theresa May hoped in her letter.