A piquant situation has arisen after the Brexit vote as leaders of the European Union want Britain to leave quickly, whereas a consensus is evolving that London should delay triggering the exit mechanism under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Besides the debate over the Brexit process, some MPs have insisted the referendum outcome is of an advisory nature that the British parliament could overrule. Most MPs in the House of Commons are said to be against leaving the EU. Some MPs seek another referendum, given the widespread anger and concern over the Brexit vote.
There is much speculation on the process of exiting the EU: Is a letter from London to the European Council stating the Brexit decision mandatory or will a simple statement by Prime Minister David Cameron to that effect in Brussels be enough?
EU officials in Brussels say a statement from Cameron during his visit in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday is enough, but top political leaders and experts in London believe the process should begin only after the letter is sent by the next prime minister, who will be in place in October.
Cameron announced his resignation after 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU but said he would stay on till a successor is chosen in October.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the two-year process to exit the EU. Since it has not been used so far, it is open to interpretation, with some experts believing the process could go beyond two years. The 27 member-states and the European Parliament will have considerable say on the exit process.
Chancellor George Osborne said on Monday: “Only the UK can trigger Article 50, and in my judgement we should only do that when there is a clear view about what new arrangement we are seeking with our European neighbours.”
Those advising a delay in invoking Article 50 include prime ministerial aspirant Boris Johnson and former prime minister Tony Blair – not only due to the reality dawning among many of the adverse effects of Brexit, but also to sort out political issues in London.
The House of Lords committee on EU examined Brexit in a report in May, and said the two-year exit process could last much longer, given the complex nature of negotiations related to future trade deals.
On Scotland’s ability to block the Brexit process, David Edward, former justice of the European Court of Justice, told the committee that legislative consent from the Scottish parliament will be required, but London could eventually ignore it and go ahead with the exit.
As a petition on the parliament website seeking another referendum attracted nearly 4 million signatures, political leaders said the petition is unlikely to succeed unless the number exceeded the number of Leave votes in the referendum: over 17.4 million.