The Guardian reports: Theresa May has told parliament that she accepts Brexit will carry consequences for the United Kingdom, as a letter delivered to Brussels began a two-year countdown to Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The prime minister took to her feet minutes after the European council president, Donald Tusk, confirmed that he had received notification, declaring that “the UK has delivered Brexit” nine months after a bruising referendum campaign.
“We understand that there will be consequences for the UK of leaving the EU. We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy. We know that UK companies that trade with the EU will have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part, just as we do in other overseas markets. We accept that,” she said. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Britain will not be given a free trade deal by the EU in the next two years, and a transition arrangement to cushion the UK’s exit after 2019 can last no longer than three years, a European parliament resolution has vowed, in the first official response by the EU institutions to the triggering of article 50 by Theresa May.
A leaked copy of the resolution, on which the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been a close conspirator, lays bare the tough path ahead for Britain as the historic process of withdrawing from the trade bloc begins.
Across 11 pages of clauses, May is warned that the EU will stridently protect its political, financial and social interests, and that the position for the UK even during the transition period will not be as positive as it is today. [Continue reading…]
Siobhan Fenton writes: While much of Britain’s attention has been on the latest twists, turns and turmoil over Brexit, Northern Ireland has been quietly self-immolating in the corner. The country’s power-sharing parliament collapsed in January after Sinn Féin refused to partner the Democratic Unionists any longer. The deadline for the parties to reach a resolution and save Stormont was Monday – but it came and went without a deal being reached.
Just 48 hours before Theresa May was due to trigger article 50, her Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, took to the steps at Stormont House to announce that Northern Ireland no longer had a government. Almost two decades after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, in 1998, the peace process lies in tatters.
The breakdown of power-sharing in Northern Ireland would always have been gravely serious, but the clash with article 50 means the timing could hardly be worse. As of this week, either a new election will have to be called in Northern Ireland (its third in 12 months), or it may have to be ruled directly from London, in what would be a major step back in the peace process.
Regardless of the option taken, the people of Northern Ireland – who, like the Scottish, voted to remain in the EU – will be left without a government for much of the Brexit negotiations. This will cause considerable frustration locally, where many already resent what they see as London’s decision to drag Northern Ireland and Scotland kicking and screaming out of the EU against their will. [Continue reading…]