While the European Union is dealing with an unprecedented refugee crisis, a quota referendum in Hungary and prospects of enlargement to the Balkans, British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced today that formal talks on quitting the European Union will begin by the end of March 2017.
This would signal a final departure from the club in 2019, if negotiations remain within the 2-year timeline as set out by the Lisbon Treaty.
The announcement today means that the UK is delaying its previous position to trigger Article 50, indicating that the Brits are not ready to negotiate until they have decided what kind of relationship they want with the EU.
While Brexit referendum last June was conducted in a muddled campaign, the decision shows that the UK still has no strategy on how to exit the EU. Th decision follows confusing and unclear comments made earlier by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, both strong Brexiters.
Although the UK remains a full EU member while it negotiates its position, steps to modify national legislation have already started with Parliament to repeal the 1972 Act to join the ECC.
The key question remains whether the UK would be able to fully control immigration coming from the EU while maintaining access to the EU single market. Both free movement of people and single market are strong unnegotiable positions several EU representatives have said.
The prospect of new tariffs scares current and future industry investors, who have warned of a dire Brexit effect on Britain’s economy.
Brexit was largely built on the promise to curb EU immigration, mainly stopping people coming from South-East Europe to work and settle in the UK, which Mrs. May as former Home Secretary had failed to deal with.
The Brits hope they would fulfill both wishes but this could prove a hard win with EU members. Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi confirmed that it is “impossible” to give British people more rights than others outside the European Union, referring to countries like Norway or Switzerland
The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has said that Britain should not be granted any special favors on single-market access and that “any outcome should ensure that all participants are subject to the same rules.” That message has also been echoed by the French and German finance ministers, Michel Sapin and Wolfgang Schäuble.
The EU is at a ‘critical’ moment said Angela Merkel last week as the Union deals with rebellious Visegrad countries like Hungary who are against refugee quotas while it is keeping its doors open for other Balkan countries like Serbia, Albania and Montenegro and later on Macedonia, Bosnia and Kosovo, all hoping to keep EU membership alive for their internal populations.
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