The countdown clock for Brexit has begun.
As decided in last summer’s national referendum, British Prime Minister Theresa May signed the papers Tuesday to invoke Article 50 and begin the formal process of the United Kingdom officially withdrawing from the European Union. The letter to European Council President Donald Tusk will be delivered today.
And on March 29, 2019, pending lengthy detailed divorce negotiations on withdrawal terms and trade relations, Britain will finally be free of the EU that it took so long to gain entrance back in 1973 when it was called the Common Market.
“We seek a new and equal partnership,” May said, “between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU.” She has promised to present the final deal to Parliament. May outlined her goals:
Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave…..
We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship.
At the same time, Scotland’s Parliament voted to hold a new independence referendum in 2018 or 2019. But the relatively close 69-59 vote did not augur well for a different outcome than the first referendum in 2014, when Scots resoundingly voted 55-45 to remain in the UK. Scottish nationalists maintain the situation has changed since the Brexit vote.
Scotland must get referendum permission from the British Parliament, which will not be forthcoming, the prime minister quickly responded. “Now is not the time,” May said of a new Scottish vote, adding that British citizens “should be working together, not pulling apart” during crucial Brexit departure talks.
In the Brexit referendum last June 23, the UK vote was 52% leave and 48% remain. But in Scotland the outcome was overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, 62% remain to 38% leave.