Britain's EU Breakup Begins

A Reading List on the Start of Brexit Negotiations

The Union Jack and the European Union flag are seen flying in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, June 27, 2016, after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU Brexit referendum. Jon Nazca / Reuters

On March 29, British Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning the negotiations for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union. Here's what to read to get up to speed on what has happened since the British people voted for Brexit in June 2016.

Europe After Brexit: A Less Perfect Union by Matthias Matthijs

For the EU, the timing of Brexit could not have been worse. More than seven years after the eurozone debt crisis hit, Europe’s economies remain fragile. Russia continues its saber rattling on the eastern periphery. The refugee crisis has exposed deep divisions across the continent over immigration. And antiestablishment parties on both the right and the left that question the value of the EU have gained ground. In the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which established the EU’s predecessor, Europe’s leaders envisioned “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.” Six decades on, that notion has never seemed more distant. Read more here.

Brexit’s Path Forward: Why It’ll Be No Cakewalk By Matthias Matthijs and Andrew Whitworth

Article 50, the legal mechanism that triggers a country’s exit from the EU, was only added to the Lisbon Treaty in the hope that it would never be used. As such, how it is supposed to work in practice is unclear. Confusion thus persists on three main issues: the fragile and complex constitutional settlement of the United Kingdom; what kind of country the United Kingdom wants to be post-Brexit; and its future relations with the EU. Read more here.

Salvaging Brexit: The Right Way to Leave the EU by Swati Dhingra

Brexit was driven by economic woes and misplaced fears, but the United Kingdom can still contain the damage and heal itself. Abroad, the government must push for continued membership in the single market; at home, it must fix inequality and deprivation. Read more here.

Brexit, Parliament, and Article 50: Why the High Court’s Decision Could Lead to a Better Departure by Andrew Hammond

The High Court's decision should energize a genuinely pan-union debate among British legislators, with the Westminster Parliament at its heart. The Parliament will help try to ensure an exit from the EU that maintains high living standards and prosperity while, at the same time, it delivers on the political need for stronger controls over immigration. This balancing act, which will be very difficult to strike given the EU’s commitment to the free movement of goods, people, capital, and services over borders, remains at the heart of the dilemmas May faces. Read more here.

Managing Brexit: Leaving on Good Terms by Brendan Simms

Although it is true that the United Kingdom should expect some serious short- to medium-term economic disruption, claims that the country will be “adrift” and made “irrelevant” reveal a complete misunderstanding of the historical roots and geopolitical realities of the current European order. Read more here.

May's Brexit Plan: Strategies for Leaving the EU by Tim Cullen

The United Kingdom should avoid having negotiations over the single market, with its “four freedoms” (the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people), be set apart from the negotiations over other concerns. Although trade and migration issues are high on the agenda, it would be a mistake for them to be negotiated within a single-market silo. Read more here.

Brexit and Economic Competition: The Good News About the Leave Vote by Kevin Hassett and R. Glenn Hubbard

The United Kingdom can serve both its own objectives and foster the long-run health of the world economy if it aggressively competes with the EU. Read more here.

The Economic Consequences of Brexit: A Conversation With Swati Dhingra

"Ninety-six percent of economists agree that a Brexit would have substantial economic cost to the U.K. economy," Dhingra tells Foreign Affairs' Stuart Reid. "The magnitude they’re thinking of is about a one percent to three percent decrease in British GDP over the next five years after Brexit, and a bigger two percent to eight percent drop over about 15 years." Read more here.

Which Brexit Will May Choose? by Matthias Matthijs

Prime Minister Theresa May faces an impossible tripartite task: to deliver on Brexit while at the same time keeping her party together and her country united. Realistically, she will have to choose two out of the three. Read more here.

Brexit and Beyond: A Foreign Affairs Anthology

A guide to Brexit that is as comprehensive as it is timely: from the tussle over whether the United Kingdom should join the Common Market, to its unique role in the European Community, to the bold new era of the European Union, to the buildup of populist tensions in the wake of large-scale migration and the financial crisis, to the domestic political maneuvering behind the referendum, to the vote’s stunning outcome and its turbulent aftermath. We’ve gathered the highlights of our coverage from the 1960s to just after the June referendum, all marked by the combination of authority and accessibility that is the hallmark of the Foreign Affairs brand. Read more here.

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