This may sound like an odd way to start our “2306” Brexit Bulletins, but it’s an important point. UK people have voted to leave the EU, but leaving does not happen automatically and is likely to take until at least 2019.
Firstly, according to Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome (the treaty that established the predecessor of the European Union), the UK Government has to begin the formal process of leaving by notifying the European Council that it wishes to do so. No such notification has yet been given. The UK Government hopes to do so by the end of March 2017, but needs approval from both Houses of Parliament.
After that, the UK and the European Union have to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement. This could be tricky. On the EU side, all 27 remaining member states have to approve the Agreement, and the European Parliament also has a vote on it. Without unanimous approval, an Agreement cannot proceed. As we have seen with the recent EU/Canadian trade agreement, an agreement can be scuppered if a region within a member state disapproves of it, let alone a member state as a whole.
Article 50 anticipates problems like this. Although it sets a time limit of two years for the negotiations to be completed, this can be extended. But only if everyone agrees. And there’s the rub.