On 29 March 2017, the UK Prime Minister (PM) triggered the now famous Article 50 by writing to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, notifying him of the UK’s intention to leave the EU. This article considers the content of that letter.
Mr Tusk’s response to the PM’s letter will be considered in a separate article shortly.
It should also be noted that since the PM delivered her letter to Mr Tusk, she has unexpectedly called a UK general election for June 8th. Meanwhile the parties have kicked off the Brexit negotiation by some early shouting at each other across The Channel.
What was in the PM’s letter?
Having served the leave notice, the PM’s letter went on to reassure Mr Tusk that the UK’s decision to leave was not a rejection of the “values we share as fellow Europeans“, nor an attempt “to do harm to the European Union“; on the contrary, the UK wants the EU to “succeed and prosper“. The EU Referendum was “a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination“. By giving notice, the PM is giving “effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom“.
The PM went on to assert that it is in the best interests of the UK, the EU and third countries for the UK to have “a new deep and special partnership with a strong European Union“, so that the UK can play it’s part in helping the EU to project its values, play a leading role in the world and defend itself from security threats. The letter suggested that the Brexit discussions should be guided by 7 principles, which she invited Mr Tusk to agree to in order to “help make sure that the process is as smooth and successful as possible“. The 7 principles are:
(1) The parties should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation.
In support of this, the PM stated that the UK would not seek to remain part of the EU Single Market because it respects the EU’s position that the 4 freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible and that there can be no “cherry picking”.
(2) We should always put our citizens first.
The discussions should aim “to strike an early agreement about” the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.
(3) We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement.
The PM said that the UK wanted to agree “a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, taking in both economic and security cooperation” and to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state “in accordance with the law and in the spirit of the United Kingdom’s continuing partnership with the EU“.
(4) We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible.
In order to avoid any cliff edge as the UK moves from its current relationship as a member to its future partnership with the EU, people and businesses would benefit from implementation periods so as to give us time to adjust.
(5) In particular, we must pay attention to the UK’s unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The PM stressed that we want to avoid “a return to a hard border between” the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
(6) We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges.
The PM proposes “a bold and ambitious free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union“. To achieve this, we need to prioritise how we manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks to maintain a fair and open trading environment and how we resolve disputes. Government officials will “put forward detailed proposals for deep, broad and dynamic cooperation“.
(7) We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values.
The PM repeated her earlier assertion that the UK wants “to play our part to ensure that Europe remains strong and prosperous and able to lead in the world, projecting its values and defending itself from security threats“.
The PM concluded her letter by stressing again that the UK wants to agree a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, that Europe has a responsibility to stand up for free trade and that weakening our cooperation for the prosperity and protection of our citizens would be a costly mistake. She also stressed the necessity to agree “the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU“.