Just nine months after the United Kingdom’s historic referendum, the British government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty this week. This will begin the two-year process of legal proceedings and diplomatic negotiations that will allow the U.K. to officially leave the E.U.
The U.K.’s decision is somewhat unprecedented. No E.U. member has ever invoked Article 50. Before it existed, Greenland voted to leave the E.U. in 1982 and successfully completed the process in 1985. I should note that this process took three years for Greenland, which only had about 60,000 people at the time. Surely, this will be more complicated for the U.K., which comprises four countries and 64 million people.
Lord Kerr, the U.K.’s most experienced E.U. negotiator and the person who drafted Article 50, does not believe that the country will reach a deal in the specified time frame. Of course, there are provisions in the Article for extensions, but that could expand the process up to a decade.
Others, such as the E.U.’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, are more optimistic. Barnier believes the negotiations will last around eighteen months. If this is the case, the European Parliament will be able to consider ratification in October 2018.
While the majority of Brits strongly support the move, others feel this is a golden opportunity to fix past mistakes. Scotland held a referendum in 2014 to leave the U.K., and the Unionists won the day. Brexit architect and MEP (Member of European Parliament) Daniel Hannan argues for a constitutional convention to reevaluate the political situation of the U.K., post-Brexit. His apprehension, and thus opposition, to Scottish independence is based on the shared culture of U.K. member countries.
This is an important conservative value. We conservatives in the United States certainly cherish it. Unfortunately, the E.U. cannot make the same claim. Their member countries are too different culturally, politically, even linguistically, to maintain a strong sense of nationhood.
But as Daniel Hannan suggests, it is important to have that reevaluation.
As far as Americans are concerned, we stand to benefit politically and economically from a successful Brexit. The European Union will be able to consolidate further without British hesitation. They will be able to dedicate more time and energy solving problems like the refugee crisis, which is of great American interest. Additionally, if the U.K. stops delivering global assistance through the E.U., “the United States could expand the U.S.-U.K. development partnership and align a greater share of the two countries’ development assistance.” In other words, any sort of financial assistance deals between the U.S. and U.K would no longer go through Brussels.
I wish all the best to our ally across the pond!