In the spotlight: Scotland’s place in the Brexit timeline

Nathanael Williams

CommonSpace looks at the timetable for Scotland once the letter invoking Article 50 is handed into the EU President’s office

AS the UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, formally informing the EU parliament president of the UK’s desire to withdraw, we take a look at the timeline of how events will break down.

The EU’s President Donald Tusk, recently reelected, has stated that the response from the EU will be given in 48 hours and has called an emergency meeting of the remaining EU members states for April 29.

Subject to requested extensions, the UK and the EU have two years to agree a “divorce deal” before the EU’s treaties cease to apply to Britain and it drops out as a result of a “no deal Brexit.”

The 262 words that outline Article 50 itself were written by Lord John Kerr, a veteran UK diplomat and independent peer, and shape the expected timetable for the UK’s full departure.

CommonSpace will focus on the timetable for Brexit and how it will impact the political dynamic in Scotland.

EU 27 adopt common approach – March-June 2017

In response to Article 50 being invoked by May’s letter, the EU is also meeting to draw up “guidelines” on how to handle the UK’s leaving. Donald Tusk, president of the EU Parliament, has already said that the EU would respond within 48 hours.

A common view by all EU members will be agreed at a summit of the remaining 27 EU countries, possibly in Brussels on April 29, which is dangerous as it could be overshadowed by the French presidential elections.

The Scottish Government will be paying keen attention to how hard a line the EU will take as it is expected that all 27 EU nations will agree never to compromise the so-called “four freedoms.” Scottish Government officials have said to CommonSpace that they understand this time period as crucial to “building better networks with our European friends” in the light of the forming of an EU line.

Great Repeal Bill begins – May

In the UK, the government at Westminister will begin pushing the Great Repeal Bill through the UK Parliament which will transfer huge chunks of EU law into UK law only to be picked apart and many binned.

The Queen’s Speech in May will outline details from the UK Government which the Scottish Government fear could involve reserving powers from Brussels once promised to Scotland such as agriculture and fisheries. In this time period, the Scottish Government could reissue the demands in its Scotland in Europe paper outlining areas it feels should be devolved further to Scotland or make a fresh call and preparation to list specific policies and legal directives it wants from the Brussels and Westminister exchange.

Germany goes to the polls – September 24

A key date that all are looking to is September 24 as Germany is the one EU member state with the greatest influence on EU institutions negotiating. Germans will be voting for a new government after the French presidential elections on May 7. The latest German polls show the current conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel, roughly even with Martin Schulz, a social democrat and a former president of the European Parliament.

For Scotland, the German elections may be crucial as Merkel has been silent on the issue of Scotland except for several comments on maintaining the stability of the union. Whereas her social democratic coalition partners and rivals have been more inclined of air sympathetic views of Scotland’s position in the EU.

In June last year Sigmar Gabriel, the former German economy minister and vice-chancellor now the foreign affairs minister, remarked that Scotland would be able to join the EU as an independent country.

The divorce and trade talks – December

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has taken a hard line with the UK saying he wants a “divorce-first” before any substantive to negotiations. This would mean not just handing in the letter to trigger Article 50 but also paying the 60bn euros the EU says the UK owes for previous commitments.

Barnier has also demanded clarification on the rights of EU nationals still denied by the UK Government. An overwhelming majority of EU-27 countries agrees Britain must accept basic principles on the divorce before trade talks begin.

The Scottish Government will look at this part of the process as vital to it showing that the UK Government has poorly handled negotiations and trade deals. If the UK Government fails to smoothly handle the transition from EU status to a new trade relationship the case for Scotland being independent and inside the EU will strength all the more. 

UK’s deadline for agreeing transition – March 2018

March 2018 is the month in which many firms especially airlines are giving as a deadline to the UK Government to secure a “transitional deal.” This is a deal to soften the blow of change and upheaval for companies invested in the UK and EU. After this month, companies will start to take early action to protect their interests such as relocating business outside the UK.

Sir Ivan Rogers, the former British ambassador to the EU, warned of the importance of a such a deal to avoid falling off a “cliff edge”.

For Scotland, there is an opportunity during this time to be given concessions and to still make a case for continued access to the European single market.

Barnier’s deadline to agree deal – October 2018

Michel Barnier has said he wants Brexit talks wrapped up by October 2018 to allow both sides time to ratify the deal: “All in all there will be less than 18 months to complete negotiations,” he said. Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, and Theresa May have both said that this will be “absolutely ample” time to conclude an agreement. But David Davis early this month suggested that first there was no guarantee to securing a deal within the two-year timetable and the UK Government had not assessed the full impact of a “no deal Brexit”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Brexit timetable of Theresa May matches her plan to call a referendum on Scottish independence. On Monday (March 27) she said: “I think it makes it very difficult for the prime minister to maintain a rational opposition to a referendum in the timescale that I have set out.”

Sturgeon confirmed earlier this month her intention to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence between fall 2018 and spring 2019. Yesterday (March 28), the Scottish Government won a vote in the Scottish parliament on its plan to request and negotiate a date for another independence referendum.

April 2019

Theoretically – the UK’s departure from the EU should be complete. Although it has been mentioned by leading traders and civil servants, such as Article 50 author Lord John Kerr, that a new trade deal for the UK could take at least 10 years to negotiate.

Picture courtesy of Kancelaria Premiera

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