The Brexit campaign just floored the United Kingdom after the “leave” vote unexpectedly won the referendum on whether to leave the European Union, raising questions after a hazy night of celebratory debauchery about what happens next.
Prime Minister David Cameron is set to resign and markets are in temporary upheaval, but those issues will soon come to a quick resolution—unlike the actual political process of leaving the EU.
To begin, the referendum is not actually legally binding, and so it’s possible—though highly unlikely—that Cameron could simply ignore the results of the vote and remain in the EU.
In reality, Cameron, or his successor, will almost certainly invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which kicks off the two-year political process to separate the U.K. from the EU. This could occur at the EU member country summit scheduled for June 28 and 29 in Brussels. But British officials may elect to delay invoking for several months.
What follows is negotiation after negotiation on withdrawing from each and every EU structure to which the U.K. is a part, and perhaps one of the biggest issues of debate will be access to markets, as well as immigration and agricultural policy. Granted, cancelling obligations will be easy. Establishing new agreements will be the difficult part, and the European Parliament has final veto say over any final agreement between the U.K. and EU.
Unfortunately for Brexiters, this somewhat vague process could take about two years, and during that entire period, EU laws still apply to the U.K. After that time limit is up, membership laws no longer apply.
The two-year time period is just an estimate, as it can be extended if both parties agree.
“There is some degree of pressure on the EU side for the UK to do this sooner rather than later so that this doesn’t drag on for too long,” Dalibor Rohac, European Union research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The thing is nobody really knows how long it will take. There’s so much technical stuff that they’ll have to get through.”
EU president Donald Tusk has claimed the entire process could take up to seven years, given complex trade and immigration deals.
EU leadership has pushed for the U.K. to move forward with the Article 50 procedure immediately.
“Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the European Union,” the official statement said, according to The Telegraph. “We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union.”
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