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Three Things May’s ‘Dear Don’ Brexit Letter Reveals

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, notifying the EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the union. Now what?

Theresa May

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk. The letter invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, notifying Tusk of the UK’s intent to leave the European Union (EU).

The letter fulfills a promise May made almost six months ago — that she would begin the Brexit process before the end of March 2017.

Despite the formal tone of May’s letter, her notice kicks off what will be two years of tense negotiations between the UK and the EU. They will argue over immigration, trade, security, and more, and all their decisions will impact millions of lives and billions of pounds/euros in commerce.

NTK parsed May’s letter to Tusk for clues on what the next two years of negotiations will bring.


#1: Free Trade is May’s Priority

It’s buried in principle #6 of her long letter to Tusk, but May makes clear that “a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement” between the UK and EU is among “the biggest challenges” for both parties. May specifically cites the UK’s leading financial services industry.

#2: Freedom of Movement? Up for Debate.

The sticking issue for the EU — the free movement of people — is up for debate in the UK, with May declining to mention “movement” or “immigration” in her letter. She does, however, state that “we should aim to strike an early agreement” about citizens’ rights.

#3: Ireland as a Thorn?

Negotiations concerning the UK’s border with Ireland may be tricky. It’s the only country in the EU that earns a mention in May’s letter, meaning the UK-Ireland relationship is a priority for May.

One thing is clear: negotiations will be tough. Although the UK is almost one year removed from Brexit, the process is only beginning.