The Rendon Group
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Brexit Process Begins as UK Struggles with Political Turmoil in Scotland, Northern Ireland
Britain’s EU envoy Tim Barrow delivers Prime Minister Theresa May’s formal notice of the UK’s intention to leave the bloc to EC President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017. (AFP)
On 28MAR, British Prime Minister Theresa May signed an historic letter that launched Brexit. The letter, invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, was delivered to Brussels on 29MAR, starting a two-year countdown to the departure of the UK from the European Union. EU Council President Donald Tusk accepted the letter, and, lamenting the British decision to depart the bloc, responded “We already miss you.” The run-up to May invoking Article 50 also saw political turmoil in Northern Ireland and Scotland. In last June’s referendum, Northern Ireland voted 56 to 44 percent to remain in the EU, while Scotland voted 62 to 38 percent. The impending Brexit has sparked new debate around the prospect of either or both countries leaving the UK, with Northern Ireland potentially reuniting with Ireland and the EU, and Scotland reapplying for EU membership as an independent state. On 31MAR, Scotland notified PM May of its desire to hold a new referendum on independence from the UK. Gibraltar raised concerns this week about how it would be affected by the UK leaving the EU. As a remote UK territory on the European continent, Gibraltar expressed alarm over the prospect that Spain could wield influence over the territory after Brexit is complete. Seeking to reassure the territory, British leadership pledged that it would not abandon them.
News summary of events during the week of 27MAR17 – 03APR17
- 27MAR: The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) called for the UK to remain within the European single market and customs union in order to safeguard the rights of both British and EU workers. (EFE)
- 27MAR: Northern Ireland’s squabbling parties abandoned talks to form a power-sharing government before the deadline to resolve their bitter political differences. (AFP)
- 27MAR: The leaders of Britain and Scotland met for talks, but failed to resolve their differences over a new push for Scottish independence. (AP)
- 28MAR: London Mayor Sadiq Khan stepped up calls for the British government to offer a “cast-iron guarantee” to EU nationals on their right to remain in the UK after Brexit. (Guardian)
- 28MAR: PM May signed the historic letter to launch Brexit. (AFP)
- 29MAR: Britain formally launched the process to leave the EU, handing a letter to EU president Donald Tusk formally notifying the bloc. (AFP)
- 29MAR: PM May said there could be “no turning back” and called for national unity. (AFP)
- 29MAR: The Irish government said the Brexit negotiations ahead would no doubt be “very challenging,” but that Ireland was well-prepared for the difficulties ahead. (Xinhua)
- 29MAR: The European Parliament insisted there can be no discussion of future ties with Britain until the divorce conditions are finalised, rejecting a key demand of PM May. (AFP)
- 29MAR: Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said that Gibraltar will “be no victim of Brexit” and will adopt to a new reality outside of the European Union. (AFP)
- 30MAR: Brexit minister David Davis said that Britain was not seeking to threaten Europe when it said cooperation in fighting terrorism would be weakened if it left the European Union without a comprehensive deal. (Reuters)
- 30MAR: Luxembourg claimed the legal right to host the London-based European Banking Authority after Brexit. (AFP)
- 31MAR: The Scottish government formally notified PM May of its request for a second referendum on independence, deepening the crisis sparked by the Brexit vote. (AFP)
- 01APR: Gibraltar protested the possibility that the EU could give Spain veto power over whether any Brexit deal applied to the British territory. (NYT)
- 01APR: The UK vowed to stand up for Gibraltar’s interests against Spain. (BBC)
- 02APR: The Department for Exiting the EU revealed it is appointing an external consultancy to help co-ordinate the next stage of Brexit planning. (FT)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about Brexit negotiations
- @BrigidLaffan – Brigid Laffan, Director and Professor, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, and Director, Global Governance Programme, European University Institute (EUI) (Florence)
- @Erik_Jones_SAIS – Erik Jones, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University (USA)
- @gideonrachman – Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator, Financial Times (London)
- @MaryERegan – Mary Regan, Political Columnist, Sunday Business Post
- @mvanhulten – Michiel van Hulten, Visiting Senior Fellow, London School of Economics
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding Brexit negotiations
John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow, National Centre for Social Research
“For the most part voters on both sides of the border want much the same outcome — free trade, immigration control and retention of much of the consumer and environmental regulation currently afforded by the EU. This means that on immigration in particular voters in Scotland seem to be more in tune with the stance taken by the UK government than that adopted by the Scottish government.”
- “Scotland makes formal request to UK for independence vote,” AFP, 31MAR17
Mark Leonard, Director, European Council on Foreign Relations
“On the one hand it’s a really big step—it means that Britain is formally starting the clock [on negotiations], but at the same time, it’s a bit of a phony war until the autumn…The big crunch point will be in December  when there will be an agreement about the divorce.”
- “Staring Into Brexit’s Abyss,” Atlantic, 28MAR17
Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, King’s College London
“I think [UK and the EU] would prefer a deal…I still think they are readier to walk out than most people accept…It’s ugly and so frighteningly horrible, that I can’t quite believe it’s happening.”
- “U.K. Initiates ‘Brexit’ and Wades Into a Thorny Thicket,” NYT, 29MAR17
Aidan Regan, Political Scientist, University College Dublin
“Events change the world, don’t they? Brexit has legitimised the discourse on reunification in a way that would not have been possible if it wasn’t going to happen.”
- “Brexit bring Irish reunification back into the spotlight,” FT, 31MAR17
Matthew Williams, Professor and co-director of the Social Data Science Lab, Cardiff University
“What we have noticed, using our various bits of software, is there has been an increase in hate speech today around this event, It is worrying. We’ve entered into what I’d say is a new darker phase when it comes to relations with minority individuals in the UK, whatever minority they may be.”
- “Article 50: Triggering Brexit process prompts spike in online hate speech,” Independent, 30MAR17
Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times
“We will be making up a new trade policy which will probably take us 20 years.”
- ”Spotlight: Britain starts out on historic Brexit,” Xinhua, 30MAR17
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to Brexit Negotiations
- Scotland Votes to Demand a Post-‘Brexit’ Independence Referendum
Media: New York Times
Byline: Stephen Castle
Date: 28 March 2017
LONDON — Only hours before Britain is to embark on its momentous journey out of the European Union, Scotland’s Parliament on Tuesday underscored one of the risks along that path by voting to demand a new referendum on Scottish independence.
By a vote of 69 to 59, members of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh approved plans to request a referendum on independence that could take place just before Britain completes its withdrawal from the European Union, a process known as Brexit.
- ‘No turning back’ – May triggers ‘historic’ Brexit
Byline: Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Piper
Date: 29 March 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May formally began Britain’s divorce from the European Union on Wednesday, declaring there was no turning back and ushering in a tortuous exit process that will test the bloc’s cohesion and pitch her country into the unknown.
In one of the most significant steps by a British leader since World War Two, May notified EU Council President Donald Tusk in a hand-delivered letter that Britain would quit the club it joined in 1973.
- E.U. to Britain: We’re in control of Brexit talks, not you
Media: Washington Post
Byline: Griff Witte
Date: 31 March 2017
LONDON — Two days after Britain filed its divorce papers, the European Union made clear Friday that it will be the one to set the pace and terms of talks on the British decision to leave the bloc.
In its first official response to Britain’s letter announcing its exit, the E.U.’s draft guidelines for the coming negotiations show that it is willing to discuss a trade deal with Britain — but not until E.U. leaders feel that “sufficient progress” has been made in agreeing to the terms of separation.
- Brexit: Government ‘to stand up’ for Gibraltar’s interests
Date: 01 April 2017
The UK has said it will stand up for Gibraltar’s interests after the territory accused Spain of using Brexit to forward its territorial aims.
After reported lobbying from Spain, the EU’s Brexit negotiation strategy is that decisions affecting Gibraltar will be run past the Spanish government.
- NHS recruits must be given special status after Brexit, MPs urge
Media: The Guardian (UK)
Byline: Toby Helm and Ben Quinn
Date: 01 April 2017
Cross-party pressure to guarantee employment for EU nationals as fears grow of mass exodus of staff
The government is under intense cross-party pressure to guarantee that EU nationals will still be able to work in the NHS, as concern grows that Brexit will cause a critical shortage of nurses and doctors.