Back to life, back to Brexit reality

Given the superb contributions posted on Slugger over the past few weeks, I thought it best to voluntarily suspend my regular postings until the Assembly election was over.

So now that all the votes have been counted, the seats declared and the government negotiations underway, I thought I’d return to the massive elephant in the corner of the room: Brexit.

We are now into March and it is expected that this will be the month that Theresa May triggers Article 50 and notifies the European Commission that the UK intends to leave the EU.

Once Article 50 is triggered, the clock starts ticking and both sides have two years to finalise the shape of future EU-UK relations.

The initial two months will be largely a period of housekeeping as the matters to be negotiated, the format of discussions and the liability of payments are ironed out.

After that, the two negotiating teams led by David Davis and Michel Barnier will spend a period of roughly 16 months hammering out the negotiations themselves. Parallel to this the remaining 27 Member States will be in constant discussion formally through the European Councils and informally through the various Permanent Representations in Brussels.

Once all that is agreed, what comes thereafter, and presuming some form of deal covering 20,000 pieces of legislation is agreed, is a little unclear.

From the EU side, consent must be received from the European Parliament. Responsibility for guiding this process lies with former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofsdat MEP, before being signed off by the European Council.

The UK is still deciding whether the terms of Brexit will need to be voted on by Westminster and many are pushing for a second referendum.

To be fair, a second referendum, on the actual terms of Brexit rather than an Utopian ideal, makes absolute sense. However, as we have seen from the first referendum, sense rarely comes into it.

The case for Ireland and Northern Ireland is well known in both Brussels and London. Much effort has been made to press this unique situation on many levels, we will soon see how this pans out.

Senator Neale Richmond is Chairman of the Seanad Select Committee on the UK’s decision to leave the EU.