How Brexit divorce gets messy, the day after UK vote in June

If Britons vote to leave the EU in their June 23 referendum, UK prime minister David Cameron can effectively file the divorce papers in person to fellow EU leaders the next morning in Brussels.

Just how he will arrange his diary, having scheduled the vote on the first day of the regular midsummer EU summit, is not yet clear; from then on, the process of Brexit will only get messier, as Europe’s fractious leaders haggle their way through an unprecedented break-up that could take years to complete.

Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union lets a state quit and sets a deadline to negotiate terms within two years.

If by mid-2018, Britain has not agreed issues like trade terms or the status of foreign residents, its membership will simply end — unless it and all 27 other EU states agree an extension.

Mr Cameron’s government said this week, however, that rewriting British laws post-Brexit and renegotiating relations in trade and other fields could take a decade, with an EU divided over other crises and smarting from Britain’s rejection.

No one has a clear idea how events will unfold once voting ends at 10 pm on Thursday, June 23. Instant exit polls will deliver a verdict to Brussels just as EU leaders are finishing dinner at the halfway point of their two-day meeting.

Once Britain gives notice it is quitting, it will be excluded from EU discussions on how to handle that process.

Some supporters of a Brexit vote suggested formal notification of Britain’s plan to quit could be delayed to give EU leaders time to offer better terms than Mr Cameron’s deal, possibly to a new British premier if he is forced out.

The most recent departure, when Greenland quit the EEC membership it shared with Denmark until 1985, was however tortuous .

Although no member state has voted to leave in the 60 years of the Union and its earlier incarnations, territories such as Algeria have emerged into independence.

But the most recent departure, when Greenland quit the EEC membership it shared with Denmark until 1985, was so tortuous, even though the trade links were tiny, the 2009 Lisbon Treaty redrawing EU law set the first rules for withdrawal.

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