While the possibility of Brexit has been known for two years now, the decision of the U.K. to leave the EU has nevertheless surprised many — both within and outside of the U.K. The full implications of this decision may well not been known for some time — Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out a process for a country to signal its intention to leave as well as a path for the terms of separation to be negotiated and agreed, and sets a two-year deadline for this to happen. But this deadline can be extended if unanimously agreed, and Article 50 does not set down any provisions for the agreement of a new trade deal. Article 50 is also not the only way for the U.K. to leave the EU, although alternative routes, such as unilateral changes to U.K. legislation, are likely to antagonize the rest of Europe.
In short, many things are currently unclear: what will future trade arrangements be? How long will it take for them to come into effect? How will they be negotiated? Who will negotiate them? As the U.K. government formally supported the Remain camp, no official approach for Brexit has been defined in London and a change at the top of government needs to be settled before concrete progress can be made.
This paper was published in June 2016. Some of the discussions in this paper may no longer be relevant, or valid. To read our latest views on Brexit, please click here.