EU leaders want Britain to invoke Article 50 as quickly as possible, to end political uncertainty and restore some confidence to financial markets. But leaders of the “Leave” campaign say there’s no rush and argue that there should be informal talks on withdrawal before the article is invoked and the clock starts ticking. Yes, that’s right. The people behind the Brexit are in no hurry to actually implement it. After all, even the leavers want to maintain an advantageous trade relationship with the EU, and two years is not a long time to negotiate one. The EU, on the other hand, will be in no mood to make this easy for the U.K., as it tries to prevent other member states from planning their own Nexits, Frexits, and Auxits.
There’s also a possibility that we could see a parliamentary vote on the Brexit before Article 50 is invoked. This could get interesting, as a majority of the 650 members of the House of Commons favor remaining in the EU. Whether they would overrule their own voters is another question. Members of the Scottish National Party are safe anti-Brexit votes, but pro-EU Conservatives would be afraid of losing more ground to the insurgent U.K. Independence Party. The Labour Party seems to be in complete disarray and in the course of ousting its own leader.
All this means that the process is likely to be long and aggravating, involving not just negotiations with Brussels but the tricky question of which of the EU’s regulations Britain will choose to maintain as British law and what’s going to happen to Scotland and Northern Ireland.