Saturday

19th Aug 2017

Brexit unlikely before 2019

  • Anti-EU campaigners are unhappy at the prospect of waiting for years for Brexit. (Photo: Jaypeg)

When Theresa May launched her campaign in Birmingham last month (11 July) to become the next leader of the UK's Conservative party, she made the now famous promise that "Brexit means Brexit", adding that she would "make a success of it".

However, she never said when it would actually happen.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Theresa May's government is facing several obstacles before it can trigger article 50, not least that Nicola Sturgeon wants Scotland to stay in. (Photo: First Minister of Scotland)

UK ministers have now privately warned senior figures in the City of London that Britain could remain in the EU until late 2019, UK weekly The Sunday Times and other British media reported over the weekend.

The government was set to trigger article 50 - which starts the formal process for quitting the Brussels club - at the beginning of 2017, the media reports said. This would mean leaving the EU could follow early 2019 after two years of negotiations.

May's government is facing several difficulties with the Brexit process.

One problem is that two leading EU countries, France and Germany, will soon focus on internal affairs due to elections making them unlikely to strike major international agreements for some time.

The next French presidential election is to be held in April and May 2017. The latest date for the German federal election is 22 October next year.

New teams take time

Another problem is the hiring of experts to lead the negotiations with Brussels.

David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, are making slow progress on assembling their new teams.

Together with Boris Johnson, former mayor of London, the trio has been tasked by May to lead the Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

The three ministers all campaigned to leave the EU ahead of the 23 June referendum, when some 52 percent voted for a Brexit.

But Davis has so far hired fewer than half of his 250 required staff members. Fox is putting together a team of 1,000 people, but has so fare hired just 100, according to UK media.

The prospect of a Brexit delay has prompted some hardcore anti-EU campaigners to rattle sabres.

Eurosceptic Tories, who fear that the UK is heading for Brexit Lite, plan to create at least two cross-party groups to pressure May into announcing a strict timetable for leaving the EU.

Nigel Farage, the former leader of the anti-EU Ukip party, reportedly warned that failure to deliver on June’s EU referendum and curb immigration could lead to mass demonstrations on the streets.

Tusk on tour

EU council president Donald Tusk announced last week that he would hold talks with all EU leaders, including May, ahead of an informal Bratislava Brexit summit on 16 September.

EU member states - apart from Britain - will discuss in Bratislava how to respond to the Brexit vote in terms of EU reforms.

A Tusk working dinner with German chancellor Angela Merkel is planned already on 18 August.

Meanwhile, the countries closest to the UK are thinking about the eventual consequences of Brexit for their own interests.

"Our objective is to make the best possible deal for Denmark," Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen told Bloomberg when asked about future Brexit talks.

"We have about six months to get our wish list ready," said Jensen, who is expecting negotiations on Britain’s departure to start as soon as the end of this year.

"We need to find out where we should be aggressive in securing our interests and where we need to ensure that Britain doesn’t get any advantages that the rest of us aren’t getting."

Last week, Norway’s European affairs minister Elisabeth Vik Aspirer also said UK attempts to eventually rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) may not be in Norway's interest.

“It’s not certain that it would be a good idea to let a big country into this organisation. It would shift the balance, which is not necessarily in Norway’s interests," she told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Iceland is taking a more welcoming approach in terms of British EFTA membership.

"When more countries join your club that usually means more influence on the international stage," Iceland's foreign minister Lilja Alfredsdottir said in an interview with the Norwegian online business newspaper E24 Naeringsliv.

It is not yet clear if the UK - which was an EFTA member till 1973 - wants to rejoin the club, which also includes Switzerland.

EFTA has agreed trade deals with 38 countries around the world.

Other headaches

The Brexit process is also haunted by the spectre of British divisions after Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voted in favour of remaining in the EU.

England and Wales could do a “reverse Greenland” by seeking a territorial exemption from the continuing UK member state, allowing Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar to retain their EU membership, Denmark-based academic Ulrik Pram Gad suggested in an article for the London School of Economics.

The idea was described as “interesting” by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, reports the Scotsman daily.

Following a referendum Greenland withdrew from the EEC in 1985 while the rest of the Kingdom of Denmark remained a member.

In Northern Ireland private campaigner Raymond McCord last week (4 August) launched the first legal challenge in Northern Ireland to the UK leaving the European Union.

His lawyers claim it would be unlawful to trigger article 50 without parliament voting on the move.

UK to have 'special' EU relations, Germany says

As a former EU member, the UK is likely to enjoy a special status even after Brexit, a German minister says, but insists that EU workers must be given freedom of movement.

EU agency relocation race starts with 23 cities

Cities from 21 countries have applied to host the two London-based EU agencies, which will have to be relocated after Brexit, with Luxembourg throwing its hat in for the banking authority.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy