Brexit, Article 50 and the EU Referendum

Five things you need to know about Article 50

Experts from the University of Sheffield give their reaction to Prime Minister Theresa May triggering Article 50 today (29 March 2017), officially beginning the UK's departure from the European Union.

Britain's economy is entwined with EU countries

Dr Jonathan Perraton, Department of Economics

"By now many people know that the European Union accounts for around 45 per cent of Britain’s trade. This, though, understates how entwined the British economy is with the other 27 countries. Trade is not just buying brie and Prosecco, or selling scotch whiskey.

"Around half of imported intermediate products are sourced from other EU; production in Britain is integrated with networks across Europe. Production of cars and electronics are at particular risk. The EU is Britain’s largest market for services too, and one with which it has a large surplus. The Single Market facilitates this; leaving it threatens to undermine this."

Triggering Article 50 does not mean that we have left the EU

Professor Tamara Hervey, School of Law

"Triggering Article 50 does not mean that we have left the EU. All our EU law rights still apply. It may be that we choose to reverse it within the two years, or that Parliament decides that the deal we are able to negotiate is not better than 'no deal', and it is, after all, better to remain in the EU. The referendum was advisory, and democracy is a process, not a moment."

What happens next still remains unclear

Dr Owen Parker, Department of Politics

"Following the triggering of Article 50 things will remain unclear. For one thing, the EU and UK appear not to agree on what the negotiations that will follow should cover. The UK wants the all-important discussion of a trade deal to be on the table from the start. The EU wants to deal with the detail of that separately, after the UK exits. The so-called divorce bill will be another bone of contention: will the UK government be willing to pay the roughly £50 billion that the EU is likely to ask for given how badly this would play in some quarters of the British press?

"Another critical question for many is if, when and how the rights of non-national EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the rest of the EU will be guaranteed. Despite a desire on both sides to resolve the issue quickly, there are legitimate fears that if things quickly turn acrimonious that may prove tricky. There are likely to be few winners from what will be an extremely costly and time-consuming process for which neither side — though particularly the UK — seems to be fully prepared. The worst case scenario for the UK is no deal and the transformation of the UK into a much lower-tax/regulation economy.

"While some Conservatives explicitly favour such an option, for the government the threat of such an outcome is probably seen as part of a negotiating strategy. The worry is that if the government has its bluff called, such a reality may become politically unavoidable."

Negotiating Brexit will be slow moving

Dr Eirini Karamouzi, Department of History

"With the triggering of Article 50, the British and the EU-27 will move from the realm of desire and grand promises to the reality of negotiations. EU and its institutions are a well-oiled negotiating machine, with a long history of processes and systems in place to handle Brexit whereas the UK has had limited time to build up such mechanics.

"Negotiating Brexit will be slow moving, as even the topics of negotiation are up for negotiation. Within the limited timeframe ahead and aiming for a deal, the talks will predominantly - in semblance to the enlargement rounds- revolve around the nature of the transitional arrangements."

EU businesses face an intractable 'Brexit dilemma'

Dr Scott Lavery, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute

"EU businesses face an intractable ‘Brexit’ dilemma: how to balance proximity with politics. On the one hand, many EU firms which run surpluses with the UK have pushed for trade barriers to be kept to a minimum. On the other hand, EU business groups acknowledge that Brexit potentially threatens the integrity of the Single Market.

"Special treatment for the UK could provoke further political instability which in turn could undermine the EU’s core economic logic. Balancing these two pressures will be a key strategic objective for EU businesses as the Article 50 process develops."