Professor Catherine Barnard, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The triggering of Article 50 marks the end of the first Act of Brexit. As with any good Shakespearian play, it precedes more drama ahead. Act Two will involve the negotiations about the negotiations at EU level, with a subplot concerning the changes at domestic level to be introduced with the Great Repeal Bill. Act Three will focus on the negotiations over the terms of the divorce, especially payments for the commitments the UK has already entered into. Act Four may consider the framework for a future trade deal. Act Five will be the denouement, the unravelling of the plot, and the big reveal: the terms and conditions of Brexit.”
Professor Iain Begg, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe, said: “One of the first and, probably, most contentious issues in the negotiations will be the size of the ‘divorce’ bill the UK will have to pay. Some on the UK side believe it need not be anything at all, while the signals from Brussels suggest it could be as high as €50-60 billion. Moreover, it is being argued by the EU side that unless there is progress on the money issue, other topics will be stalled. Failure to settle this thorny, if ultimately straightforward issue quickly could have a damaging effect on other elements of the negotiations.”
Professor Jonathan Portes, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe said: “Will Article 50 mean a quick end to the damaging uncertainty which hangs over millions of EU citizens living here and Brits abroad? Yes and no. Politically, this should be one of the easiest issues to resolve; but the administrative and practical details are formidable.
“Theresa May has made it clear she wants to end free movement, so a key question is whether immigration will be part of the negotiations at all. The government knows the economic value of EU migration to the UK and ending free movement without other arrangements in place risks the UK losing not just low-skilled migrants, but nurses, care workers, bankers and researchers.”
Dr Jo Hunt, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The Prime Minister is committed to a ‘whole UK’ approach to Brexit, but as Article 50 is being triggered, the governments within the UK are divided. Northern Ireland has no prospect of forming its own government, while in remain-voting Scotland and leave-voting Wales, their devolved governments’ preference is for a soft Brexit. These divisions at home will add an extra unwelcome dimension to the UK government’s task ahead in Brussels.”
Professor John Curtice, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe, said: “Theresa May has had some success during the last three months in persuading those who voted to Leave the EU that she is handling Brexit well. However, the country is still deeply divided on the merits of the original decision to leave the EU, while even Leave voters could yet become disillusioned if the Prime Minister proves unable to deliver the combination of free trade and immigration control that she has promised.”
Professor Matthew Goodwin, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe said: “There has been little evidence of any significant shift in how the British people think about their historic vote last June. While Leavers tend to think it was the right decision, Remainers tend to think it was the wrong one (even if a significant number of Remainers now accept that Brexit is largely inevitable). The core areas of concern that motivated Leave voters – mainly immigration – also remain highly salient on the political agenda and from so hereon these voters will be looking for clear messages from the government that they are taking steps to exert ‘control’ over this issue and, ideally, reducing overall levels of immigration into Britain.”
Professor Richard Whitman, senior fellow UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The UK is about to embark on its most significant diplomatic challenge in over four decades. In the course of the next two years Britain’s foreign and security policy will go through a period of extensive remodelling in which, paradoxically, the EU will be its central preoccupation. The future relationship the UK negotiates with the EU will largely determine the prospects for the ‘Global Britain’ that the government has set as an objective for the UK’s post-Brexit place in the world.”
Professor Michael Keating, senior fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “There has been no agreement with the devolved governments prior to triggering Article 50. The UK Government has yet to respond to the Scottish and Welsh proposals of December and January. The Northern Ireland Executive has not been formed after the recent elections. UK ministers have indicated that they are not open to a differentiated Brexit for the different nations. They have suggested that there will be no hard border in Northern Ireland but have not said how this will be possible. There has been no consistent statement from Westminster as to what will happen to competences in non-reserved (therfore devolved) matters when they come back from Europe.”
Professor Anand Menon, director UK in a Changing Europe, said: “And so it begins. Though with a whimper rather than a bang. Once Mrs May’s letter has been delivered, not much will happen for a while. Yet finally, the referendum has been acted upon. And this marks the end of the period when our government was in control. Eighteen months of tough negotiations await, during which we will realise the degree to which our fate hinges on decisions taken elsewhere. Following which, the future of any deal arrived at will be decided in parliament. And Labour’s hardening position makes that far from a foregone conclusion. Today brings to an end the first chapter of what promises to be a long book.”
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.