Well that was nice while it lasted.
After 44 years as part of the European Union, Britain today (March 29) officially told our continental partners: “We want out.”
The letter from Theresa May which will trigger Article 50 and our departure was due to be be handed over to European Council president Donald Tusk later.
But what does it all mean? We have very little idea. But luckily we know someone who does.
Here Dr Charlotte O’Brien, senior lecturer at the University of York’s York Law School, offers her expert reaction…
What will change when Article 50 is triggered?
The EU treaties ‘shall cease to apply’ (ie the UK will cease to be a Member State) two years after notification.
According to Article 50 it could happen in less than two years, if a withdrawal agreement is concluded and enters into force before then. But given the scale of the task ahead, and the UK’s shortage of negotiators, coming in under the two-year deadline seems unlikely.
Will EU laws cease to apply after the two years are up?
We will have to wait for the Great Repeal Bill to get more of an idea of what the government has in mind.
In short, EU laws implemented in primary laws can only be changed by Parliament, and both Houses must oversee such changes.
But a lot of EU-based rights are contained in secondary law, over which the government has considerably more control.
Can the UK withdraw its Article 50 notification?
Article 50 does not tell us. In the Miller case (about parliament having a say on the triggering of Article 50) both parties agreed, for strategic reasons, that notification started an irreversible process.
But much depends on what the other 27 Member States think. If the UK sought to stop the process, and met with any opposition among the other states, then we may have to ask the Court of Justice of the European Union to decide on the reversibility of Article 50.
Can the two years be extended?
This may depend on how well disposed the other states are to the UK after a long period of negotiation.
Also, if reaching that agreement is likely to take a long time, then meta-negotiations about an extension to negotiations would have to commence well before the two year period is up.