Theresa May Justin Tallis/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Brexit or Breakup?

It soon will be one year since the UK decided, by a slim majority, to leave the EU. Now that the UK has invoked Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, and clarified some of its objectives for leaving the bloc, we can begin to get a sense of how the process will play out over the next few years – and it probably won't be pretty.

STOCKHOLM – Even after abandoning its empire, the United Kingdom hesitated for decades to join Europe. But it eventually did, and in the past half-century it became a proponent of European Union enlargement, and a champion of key EU policies such as the single market.

But soon it will be one year since the UK decided, by a slim majority, to leave all of that behind. In the past 11 months, we have been told repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit” – a phrase that leaves one none the wiser as to what Brexit actually means. But now that the UK has invoked Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the fog has started to lift. The UK has clarified some of its objectives for leaving the bloc, and we can begin to get a sense of how the process will play out over the next few years.

For starters, we know that the divorce will not be easy. Rather than pursuing a Norway- or Turkey-style arrangement, in which the UK would maintain some access to the single market or customs union, British Prime Minister Theresa May has opted for a “hard Brexit.” She has made it clear that controlling immigration and leaving the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction are her primary objectives. And with her Conservative Party poised to win a solid majority in the general election on June 8, the UK will almost certainly stay this course.

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