If “Brexit Means Brexit” Then What’s the Hold Up?

This article is part of our ongoing analysis of how Brexit might impact both UK citizens living and working in the EU, and vice versa. Other articles include: “What the ‘Brexit’ Could Mean for European Workers” and “Brexit: What Happens Now? And What Does It Mean For Your Jobs?.”

It’s been six weeks since the EU referendum, and the shock of the UK’s 52% Leave vote is still reverberating around the world. Though a lot of political action has taken place in the meantime, most people are at a loss to say what is actually happening.

Leaders of the Leave campaign dropped like flies once they realised they might have to try to follow through on empty promises. Cameron too chose to step down, falling foul of a political gamble that, this time, didn’t pay off.

Theresa May assumed the office of Prime Minister on the 13th of July, and although she had originally been in the Remain camp during the campaign, her inaugural speech made it clear that she would respect the will of the British people, saying “Brexit means Brexit”.

Despite this assurance, a month and a half has elapsed and Article 50 remains untriggered. The window for legal challenges to the referendum result is now over, but the high court is still hearing a case over who actually has the right to invoke the article. This leaves the UK in a limbo state where it is subject to EU rules without having any say in them. And unfortunately, this may not change anytime soon!

May said that Article 50 is unlikely to be triggered this year, prompting bookies to shorten their odds on Brexit happening at all. Pre-negotiation talks are still under way, with the PM spending a lot of time in European cities trying to garner assurances that have not been forthcoming.

Another major reason it’s taking so long for the official process to begin is that no country has ever done this before. The Lisbon treaty only came into force in 2009, and there is no precedent for how this whole thing works. Basically, everyone is driving in the dark.

The process of unweaving the past 43 years of treaties and agreements, and re-stitching accords that are palatable to both sides will not be easily done. Opinions are divided over how long it will actually take. David Davis, who was appointed as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is optimistic that the entire process could be completed by December 2018. Chancellor Philip Hammond has said that it may take up to six years.

In the midst of all this ambiguity, May can’t run the risk of triggering an exit from the Union without assurances that she can close borders and still have crucial access to the single market. However, there may be some good news for any EU citizens concerned about the future of their jobs in the UK, or vice versa.

Speaking in Rome on July 27th, May allowed that “on the issue that you [Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi] raise of Italian and other EU citizens who are living in the UK, I want to be able to guarantee their rights in the UK, I expect to be able to do that, I intend to be able to do that, to guarantee their rights. The only circumstances in which that would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens living in other EU member states were not guaranteed. But I hope that this is an issue we can address early on.”

From an economic standpoint, the initial signs have not been good. After the referendum, the pound sterling dropped by about 13% to make it the world’s worst performing currency in 2016, overtaking the Argentinian peso. However, it is still too early to say whether the UK will recover from this initial dip or become mired in a recession. Official numbers on inflation, unemployment, property and GDP will not be released until later in the year and should provide clearer indications of the country’s long-term trajectory.

The indecision trundles on, but experts are still being trotted out on panel shows to give their two cents about what will happen once the smoke clears in 2017. But surely, the one thing we can be certain of is that if recent years are anything to go by, UK politics is impossible to predict!

Carrie M. King

Carrie M. King

Carrie M. King is the Editor of the Journal by Jobspotting. Hailing originally from smack-bang in the middle of Ireland, she moved to Berlin in 2014 to join the gang at Jobspotting. Carrie previously worked in journalism and literature. If you want to share thoughts or ideas, get in touch: carrie@jobspotting.com