UK Prime Minister Theresa May gave two years' notice under Article 50, and that takes effect at 11pm London time on Friday, March 29, 2019. Here is what is in store:
Phase One talks
The EU set out three preconditions for Brexit talks that had to be met by the UK government before talks could move to the key areas of trade or a transition period. Those three preconditions were:
Reaching a satisfactory agreement on the amount of money the UK must pay for its budgetary commitments to Europe. Both sides have reached an agreement on how this amount to be calculated, with the final sum likely to be some €40 billion (Dh174 billion).
Reaching a satisfactory deal on the estimated 2,5 million EU citizens who live and work in the UK, and the 1.5 million or so Britons who live and work in the EU. There is an agreement that the European Court of Justice will have a role in protecting citizen’s rights for eight years after Brexit, though this still needs to be refined as talks progress.
The Irish border
Reaching a satisfactory deal that Brexit would not mean the return of customs and passport checks on the only land frontier between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The UK has agreed that “in the absences of agreed solutions”, it will “maintain full alignment” with the terms of the customs union that covers the EU, and will protect the terms of the 1998 agreements that ended three decades of conflict that claimed more than 3,600 lives.
The big caveat
Both the EU and the UK have agreed to move to ‘Phase Two’ of the talks, but only under a clause, the big caveat, that warns “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. In essence, it is supposed to lock in all of the agreements made so far. The big BUT is that if the Phase Two talks don’t make progress, the Phase One agreements will unravel.
Phase Two talks
These have yet to begin, with the EU27 wanting to agree on a common negotiation ground. Besides, they say it has taken a lot of time to understand what Britain wants, and the second round can’t realistically begin until mid-March at the earliest. The UK is eager to move talks on as soon as possible, and are floating the idea that a recent free trade agreement signed between the EU and Canada should form the basis of a future free trade agreement with the EU.
While the UK will formally leave the EU on March 29, both sides accept that there will likely have to be a transition period to allow the full aspects of the withdrawal to take effect. The aim is to have the UK fully out of the EU by the end of 2020, allowing for a transition period of some 20 months after the March 29, 2019 deadline.