The United Kingdom filed for divorce from the European Union, overturning four decades of integration with its neighbors, demolishing the notion that EU expansion is inevitable. The letter, hand carried to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk formally triggered the two-year countdown to the split.
There is “no reason to pretend this is a happy day,” Tusk told reporters. He emphasized that the priority now is to minimize costs for EU citizens and member states. To Britain, he said: “We already miss you.” But Britons, who voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the bloc it was time to celebrate.
Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, said Britain had passed “the point of no return.”
“I can still, to be honest with you, scarcely believe today has come,” he said.
Prime Minister Teresa May’s six-page letter to Tusk invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, was polite and conciliatory, stressing that Britons want to remain “committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.” She said the two sides should “engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation.”
The loss of a major member is destabilizing for the EU, which is battling to contain a tide of nationalist and populist sentiment.
Britain hopes to get a good deal from its divorce. But it is unclear how close and friendly the new relationship will be and the implications for business, trade, students who study abroad.
The two sides now have until March 2019 to agree on a divorce settlement and — if possible — establish a new relationship between Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, and the EU, a vast single market taking in half a billion people.
Both Britain and the EU say a top priority will be guaranteeing the rights of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain, and 1 million Britons living elsewhere in the bloc.
After decades of expansion, losing one of its largest members is a major blow.
“…But they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” Daniel 2:43