Tuesday

21st Nov 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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  2. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  4. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMale Business Leaders Gather in Copenhagen to Advance Gender Equality
  6. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened
  7. EU2017EEEstonia Anticipates More Digital Cooperation With Sweden
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Launches Campaign to Protect IPR of Foreign Companies
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Condemns Attacks on Ruta Vanagaite and the Shredding of Her Books in Lithuania
  10. Bio-Based IndustriesDiscover the Future of the Bio-Based Economy. Register Now for the BBI Stakeholder Forum!
  11. European Free AllianceWelcome Catalonia!
  12. UNICEFGrowing Number of Unaccompanied Refugee Children in Greece in Need of Shelter