Today, we’ve had confirmation the Government will trigger Article 50 – the formal process for leaving the European Union – on Wednesday, 29th March.

So what happens once we begin the Brexit process?

1. Tick…tock…

First, the two year clock on the exit negotiations starts ticking. Barring an extension of the negotiations or an agreement on a transition period, on 29th March 2019, the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union.

The negotiations that occur over the next two years will determine what happens on day one of Brexit. What tariffs and customs checks will be in place? What rights will people have to move, live and work across our respective borders? And what regulatory regimes will companies have to comply with?

Between the PM’s Lancaster House speech and the Brexit White Paper, we already know what the UK wants the negotiations: (i) discretionary control of borders; (ii) discretionary control over law-making; (iii) no compulsory contributions to EU budget; and (iv) the ability netotiate our own trade deal.

2. What do EU want? 

So once the PM notifies the EU that we intend to leave, the second thing to happen is the EU have to determine their own negotiating position. Donald Tusk, the EU Council President, has stated that he will present draft Brexit guidelines to the EU27 within 48 hours of receiving A50 notification from the PM.

The European Commission will then take these guidelines and turn them into a formal, detailed negotiating position for the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, MIchel Barnier. It’s likely this process will only finish after France’s elections in late-April/early-May.

At that point, we will know both the UK’s priority for Brexit, as well as the EU’s. At that point the Brexit negotiations can begin.

3. The Great Repeal Bill

Lastly, the FT is reporting that the Government will publish a Great Repeal Bill White Paper alongside the Article 50 notification. As David Allen Green writes:

The bill is not about repeal, at least not primarily. Its primary purpose will be to place into local UK law almost the entirety of currently applicable EU law. In a wonderful paradox, the bill will, in effect, be the greatest single imposition of EU law in UK legal history.

This is what “taking back control” has to mean in practice. This exercise needs to be done because two years is not long enough to sort out all, or even many, of the statutory complications of Brexit: so the bill is a work-around to place EU law on a UK basis when the conduit of the European Communities Act 1972 can no longer be used when the EU treaties cease to apply in the UK.

And this is how the formal process of leaving the EU begins.

Over the coming days, we’ll post on the Brexit priorities are for ADS’ members. We’ll also set out a Brexit Glossary of terms we’re all going to have to learn over the next couple of years (think ‘accumulation’ and ‘Inward Processing Relief’).

In terms of Brexit, triggering Article 50 is only the end of the beginning. The next two years will be critical to ensuring that, come 29th March 2019, UK business aren’t operating in a legal and regulatory vacuum.