Since 2016, the world has watched as the United Kingdom hashed out the details of one of the most controversial political events in recent history. As the anticipated ‘Brexit Day’ – 29 March 2019 – inches closer and closer, many have wondered what has or has not been agreed on and how that affects them. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May emerged from her 10 Downing Street residence to announce that she had won most of the Cabinet support for her Brexit deal.
A 585-page draft proposal detailing the agreement was made public after the cabinet meeting, many of the elements having been decided on already, including Britain’s £39 billion ‘divorce deal’ from the European Union. The draft also comprised of a ‘backstop’ which guaranteed that, in case of a no-deal Brexit, a hard border will not be implemented between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That is because the Brexit deal should honour the existing Good Friday Agreement between the British and Irish governments, not counter it. The backstop implies a single customs agreement between the UK and EU, which means that all EU environmental, competition and manufacturing standards must still be followed by the UK.
After PM Theresa May has won over her cabinet’s support, albeit far from unanimous, the next step is for a special summit in Brussels that would take place on November 25th. The summit will involve leaders from the 27 EU member states where they will be asked to vote on the draft deal. From then, there are various outcomes that could take place: either the leaders will agree on the deal which would then go to back to the House of Commons for British MPs to agree on; or a no-confidence vote could force Theresa May out as leader, following a number of resignations on Thursday. Should this happen, her replacement would most likely want to renegotiate a new deal and will ultimately lead to more delays. Either way, should the Members of Parliament approve of the deal, then the EU will take the final vote in weeks or days before the Brexit deadline. If that is the case, Britain will be leaving the EU on March 29th, 2019.
Nevertheless, even once the agreements are in place, the battle is far from over. Discussions on what future trade will look like, immigration and the general relationship between the EU and the UK still needs to take place. All of this will be settled during the transition period, which will last for 21 months from March 29th 2019 to December 31st 2020. In the event that these issues are still not agreed upon, the transition period may either be extended beyond 2021 or the backstop plan will be rolled out.
As we get closer to March 2019, it seems to be clearer than ever that there are still obstacles lying ahead for the United Kingdom. Troublesome domestic politics seem to have caused a sudden 1.5% fall of the British pound and forex specialists forecast it to lose another 3-4% over the weekend. The banking sector’s stocks saw a further 4-6% drop today. The situation could improve should the UK demonstrate leadership and unity both internally and externally. Sky News sources suggest no confidence vote is now likely to happen. Should it fail, Theresa May’s position as PM cannot be challenged for another 12 months, implying some sense of political stability.
As for EU citizens, in order to be allowed to continue living in the UK, they must register for settled status before June 2021. The scheme will open in March 2019 and will cost £65 for citizens over 16. It is unclear what the measures for British expats will be in order to guarantee their right to live in the EU. Many British nationals tapped into their Irish heritage to obtain its EU citizenship. A lesser known option is citizenship by investment of Caribbean countries such as Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis or St Lucia, whose citizens are allowed to travel freely to both the UK and the Schengen Area.