British Prime Minister Theresa May is seen kissing President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker during a group photo at the Council of the European Union on the first day of a two-day summit on October 20, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Prime Minister Theresa May is attending her first EU Council meeting as the British Prime Minister. The government’s Brexit strategy continues to be debated in the UK with Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty to be triggered by the end of March 2017. Article 50 notifies the EU of a member state’s withdrawal and the EU is then obliged to negotiate a withdrawal agreement. The process will take two years seeing the UK finally withdraw from the Union in March 2019.
Brexit is an abbreviation for “British Exit”, which refers to the June 23, 2016, referendum whereby British citizens were asked the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”. A majority of British voters voted to exit the European Union. The referendum roiled global markets, including currencies, causing the British pound to fall to its lowest level in decades.
Britain initially refused to join the European Economic Community when it was founded in 1957. It finally became a member in 1973, only to have a similar referendum on leaving just two years later – the pro-Europe campaign won with 67 percent of the vote at that time. However, a strain of nationalism and populist opposition to Europe remained in the following decades, and Britain never joined other European countries in adopting the euro as its currency. It also declined to participate in the EU’s Schengen Area open-borders agreement.
After the Brexit vote, and after some polititcal leadership turmoil, it has now fallen to PM Theresa May to act on Brexit, and extricate Britain from Europe. May has argued that the UK should remain part of any key decision-making until it finally leaves the EU, but it seems that the EU may have decided to meet without Britain to discuss and plan its future.
May has said she will wait until early 2017 before invoking Article 50 of the EU treaties, which would trigger the formal two-year negotiating process that culminates in Britain leaving the EU.
In the meantime, there has been a surge in the number of people applying for citizenship in other EU countries, with some member states reporting a near-tenfold increase in applications over 2015, in the months before and after the EU referendum.
Editor’s Note: As Alice Cuffe notes in the IB Times, Theresa May’s style has become part of her political power statement, using fashion and style to “mark her territory” and make a strong statement that she is to be taken seriously. She is often seen wearing powerful red shoes, leopard prints, thigh-high boots and flats – a real departure from most other female political leaders who tend to simplify their style to a more conservative look. May has established a unique signature style that displays strength using elements of color, print and texture.