When Theresa May called the General Election, she was quick to make it a Brexit election. Her rationale was that with a stronger majority behind her, she would be better placed to negotiate a favourable settlement with her European counterparts.
With the election over, the time has come to return to the task of unravelling our ties with Europe. So, what stage have we reached and what is likely to happen next?
THE STARTING GUN HAS BEEN FIRED
On 29th March this year, Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This was done in the form of a letter delivered to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, and signalled the start of the process of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Starting from that date, the UK has two years to negotiate its exit. In the meantime, the four core conditions of our membership remain unchanged. This means that during this time we must allow the free movement of people, capital, goods and services.
THE EUROPEAN STANCE
The EU parliament has already confirmed its negotiating position, stating that EU citizens’ rights, the fair and equal treatment of EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in Europe must all be upheld.
It has also said that any attempts by the UK to negotiate trade deals with individual EU countries, or with countries outside the EU, before its exit would be considered a breach of EU law. EU heads and officials have been quick to say that on its departure, the UK won’t be able to enjoy the same access to the EU internal market as it does now.
There is, of course, the knotty problem of our financial commitment to the EU. This is likely to become one of the most hotly-debated issues, with media estimates of the final bill currently ranging from €20bn to €100bn.