Just like the end of a long and fraught marriage, before the divorce comes the tricky separation.
If Britain votes to leave the EU, the closing scenes of the 40-year partnership would probably see the UK prime minister sitting in an office,waiting for answers in the dead of night.
Along the corridor of Brussels’ European Council building, the remaining 27 EU leaders would be deliberating and voting on the UK’s exit deal, a pact touching on almost every aspect of modern British life, from the price of milk to the freedom to work elsewhere in Europe.
While leaving the EU is Britain’s choice, the UK cannot dictate the exit terms.
“You become very lonely at that point, once you’re out of the decision making,”
said Michel Petite, former head of the European Commission legal service.
“Voting is the hard core of EU membership, the red line. You are leaving the club.”
How this complex divorce is negotiated and carried out would have a decisive impact on Britain’s economy and its place in the world for generations. It could lead to an orderly transition or a much more unpredictable process, buffeted by political pressure, volatile markets and the clash of national interests.
What future relationship would the UK seek? How would the EU react? And when exactly would the exit terms become clear?
The mechanics of divorce would determine whether breaking up with the union proves disruptive, risky or rewarding.
By: Jonathan McHugh