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The final countdown to Brexit has begun

PUBLISHED: 09:02 29 March 2018

Prime minister Theresa May arrives for the European Council
Photo: PA / Wiktor Dabkowski

Prime minister Theresa May arrives for the European Council Photo: PA / Wiktor Dabkowski

Zuma Press/PA Images

Brexit, love it or loathe it, is now just a year away.

Brexit, love it or loathe it, is now just a year away.

At 11pm – with heavy irony, we will officially leave on Brussels’ time – on March 29, 2019, the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union.

This is the biggest political earthquake the UK has faced in peacetime. And, although everyone has an opinion, it is still too early to judge if the UK can make a success of Brexit.

The government – led by a stoic Theresa May who has battled on in the face of huge pressure and adversity – has come a very long way on Brexit.

Many gloomily predicted the UK’s negotiating team would not get anywhere close to agreeing a transitional arrangement, never mind kicking off trade talks.

Yet here we are.

But there have been concessions on the way – and some of the toughest talks are yet to begin.

The biggest problem is Northern Ireland. The whole process hinges on the border.

Both sides, understandably, have committed to keeping the Irish border open to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

But how can this truly happen if the whole of the UK is to quit the EU customs union as the prime minister has repeatedly promised? If Northern Ireland remains and the rest of the UK quits, Mrs May will have effectively drawn a border in the Irish Sea.

Besides the Democratic Unionist Party – which props up the Conservatives in Westminster – has ruled out supporting this option.

It is not unconceivable that either the government will fall or the negotiations will falter. One thing is for sure – there won’t be anything smooth about the border talks. The government is also facing a backlash from fishermen angry they will remain in the Common Fisheries Policy after March 2019 until the transitional period ends.

The UK will only be consulted on changes to the quotas rather than having any decision-making power. This, quite rightly, has the industry worried.

For the rest of this year the future trade arrangements with the EU will be top of the agenda. This will be key for businesses both large and small. The UK has to nail these talks.

Of course, in the end, Mrs May might not even get it through parliament. If you think the last 12 months have been bumpy, the real jolts are probably yet to come.

Let us know how you would vote if you were heading to the ballot box today

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