Britain plays a game of wait and see what’s next

The Brexit vote has opened up a period of enormous political uncertainty, raising huge questions as to how the UK will move forward.

Could there be another referendum?

After the tumultuous events of recent days, the idea of going through it all again may seem hard to swallow but the suggestion is being seriously canvassed in some quarters.

UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt, a possible contender for Tory leader, has said the British government should not trigger the formal process of leaving until it has sorted out a new set of arrangements with Brussels — dealing with matters such as access to the single market — which should then be put to voters to endorse either by way of a second referendum or a general election.

Currently it’s hard to see other EU leaders — whose message to the UK has been “get on with it” — agreeing. Any suggestion the outcome of the referendum could be reversed or set aside would provoke intense hostility among the Leave camp. But then again these are strange times, so who knows?

Does Britain have a fully functioning government?

David Cameron remains prime minister until a successor is enthroned by the Conservative Party — due to take place on September 9 — and much of the day-to-day business of government will continue as normal.

That said, much of Cameron’s authority drained away with his announcement that he is to stand down, and it is difficult to see how he can take any major political initiatives during his remaining time in office.

Most notably, on the big issue of how the separation with Brussels will be managed, he has made it clear that is a matter for the next occupant of 10 Downing St.

When will that process begin?

In order to start the formal uncoupling, the government has to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets in train a period of negotiations of up to two years, although that could be extended with the unanimous agreement of remaining member states.

Some furious European leaders — fearful of further instability — have demanded it happen immediately and be wrapped up as quickly as possible.

Cameron insists it will be for the next prime minister to decide when that will be. He has backing from German chancellor Angela Merkel who says the UK should not be rushed.

Even when a new prime minister is in place, it will not necessarily happen straight away. Boris Johnson has said he would like a period of informal negotiations before triggering the formal article 50 process.

Britain plays a game of wait and see what’s next

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