Twelve steps forward on the Brexit tightrope

graphicd Since the referendum in June last year, the UK has faced a period of uncertainty as to what Brexit would mean for its citizens and for its businesses.

The political and economic tightrope, which is Brexit, may not have become any easier to navigate today, but at least we now know what the rope is going to be made of!

Theresa May, the UK’s prime minister has confirmed that the UK’s exit from Europe will be, what commentators have dubbed, a hard Brexit.

Mrs May has said “no” to remaining within the European single market but has promised to negotiate hard for the greatest possible access to it.

Mrs May set out twelve objectives for the UK’s exit negotiations from Europe including:

  • Providing certainty wherever the government can
  • Leaving the EU will mean that the UK’s laws will be made in the UK
  • The need to strengthen the union between the four nations of the UK
  • Delivering a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area within the Republic of Ireland
  • Controlling the number of people coming to Britain from Europe
  • The desire to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and the rights of British nationals in other member states as soon as possible
  • Protecting and building on the rights of workers set out in European legislation
  • Pursuing a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the EU
  • Rediscovering the UK’s role as a great, global, trading nation
  • Welcoming continued collaboration with European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives
  • Continuing to work closely with European allies in foreign and defence policy
  • Seeking a phased approach to the process of implementation

 

She did not pull any punches in her speech and warned the EU that a “punitive” reaction to Brexit would cause “calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe” and “would not be the act of a friend”.

She also threatened that should the EU seek to negotiate a bad deal for Brexit, she would be prepared to transform the UK into a tax haven by having “…the freedom to set competitive tax rates and embrace the policies that would attract the world’s best companies and biggest investors to Britain…”

So what next?

If all goes according to plan, Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March this year and negotiations with the remaining 27 EU states will commence.  We then have two years to agree the terms of the split.

During this time, the UK needs to comply with EU legislation and will also enact the Great Repeal Bill (ending EU law in the UK).

It is an exciting time to be a lawyer.  With change and uncertainty comes opportunity for improvements to our legislative framework, regulation and business practices.  We hope our clients will benefit too.

As John F Kennedy said “Change is the law of life and those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

 

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