At the Conservative Party conference Theresa May suggested that formal Brexit negotiations will begin at the end of March 2017. This means that article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty would be trigged, which provides the UK with a timetable to leave the Community by 2019. This is highly unlikely to occur and a negotiated period will most likely be extended, although support from all member states is required if negotiations are to continue past 2019. By March, May hopes to have a negotiation strategy in plan by March 2017, however, this will inevitably change as matters progress with German and French elections set to occur in 2017. The Conservative conference has also brought questions regarding a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit.
A ‘soft’ Brexit as it suggests would try to minimise the impact of Brexit. It would seek a close relationship with the EU. This is an approach supported by many of the Remainers. In this Britain would retain access to the Single Market but would no longer have a seat at the European Council, and lose MEPs in the European Parliament.
A ‘hard’ Brexit as it has been coined is supported by many Brexiters. This will see Britain give up all access to the single market, and not partake in a customs union. This would mean that Britain would have complete control of its borders, making new laws and trade deals in the future. With no or limited access to the Single Market Britain would have to rely on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for all trade deals in the future, including those with EU members.
Theresa May stated regarding the outcome of the referendum – ‘but come on. The referendum was clear. It was legitimate.’ This statement does make the potential of a second referendum unlikely, which was strongly supported by many in the form of an online petition that received almost 4.1 million signatures which was also debated upon in the House of Commons on 5th September 2016. May also emphasized that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – this does suggest that there will be a ‘hard’ Brexit. By stating clearly the government’s position on these matters May is attempting to manage the Conservative Party over how negotiations should be conducted. Yet what Brexit exactly means is still not explained.
May also discussed at the conference an Act of Great Repeal which would end the current primacy of the EU’s laws in the UK. This would make Britain – according to May – a free institutions that can and sovereign state that would not have to abide by political union with ‘supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.’She went on to stay that immigration control would be a priority ahead of access to the single market. Although May did argue that she wished for ‘British companies the maximum freedom to trade and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here’. From the meeting earlier at Chequers it was suggested that HMT officials wanted to retain strong access to the Single Market while Number Ten officials wanted to deliver on immigration.
This does breifly outline the future of Brexit negotiations but this is subject to change as the matter develops.