Breaking the Brexit Stalemate
The United Kingdom is now halfway through the formal process of withdrawing from the European Union, and there is still much work to be done to ensure a lasting and prosperous relationship across the English Channel. It is time to move past recriminations, and toward commonsense approaches that have worked for Europe in the past.
BRUSSELS – March 29 marked exactly one year since British Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, thus launching the formal two-year legal process by which the United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union. In the first year, it is fair to say that the Brexit negotiations have had their ups and downs. But, on a positive note, substantial progress has been made in recent weeks.
For starters, a draft withdrawal treaty between the UK and the EU is now close to completion, though both sides have made clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Once finalized, this treaty will establish the rights and obligations of both parties on a range of issues, including the “Brexit bill” – that is, the UK’s outstanding liabilities from its time as a member of the bloc – as well as the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and vice versa.
EU and UK negotiators have also agreed to a 21-month transition phase, from March 29, 2019, to December 31, 2020, during which time the UK will effectively remain an EU member state, albeit without representation in the European Parliament or any other EU decision-making bodies. The key outstanding issue that has yet to be resolved – and which will dominate discussions in the coming months – is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU.