Tuesday

27th Jun 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Against Critical Voices
  2. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  3. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  5. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  6. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  7. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  8. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  9. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  10. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  11. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  12. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million

Latest News

  1. 'USB condoms' and migration on Estonia's EU agenda
  2. EU parliament should befriend transparency
  3. EU fines Google €2.4 bn over online shopping
  4. EU Commission could get say on Russia gas pipeline
  5. G20 is 'test run' for Trump-era climate governance
  6. Political conditions for EU funds prompt debate
  7. May defends proposal on EU citizens' rights
  8. UK visitors to pay into EU budget after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  3. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  4. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  5. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  6. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  8. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  9. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  10. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  11. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  12. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together