A guide to Article 50 - the future of the seafood industry, house prices & what next for Brexit

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 29 Mar 2017

We've talked about it for nine months now but today, Theresa May invoked Article 50 – Britain is leaving the European Union.

Here Patrick Daly, the Telegraph's Parliamentary Correspondent, tackles some key questions.

What is Article 50?

The idea of Article 50 being 'triggered' conjured up all kinds of exotic images for something which is merely a clause in a very long EU treaty.

But, in some ways, it is a trigger – the lever on the starting gun which starts Britain's exit from the European Union.

The Brexit referendum – with a 70 per cent leave vote in North East Lincolnshire – and the majority votes in both Houses of Parliament gave the Prime Minister, after a tussle in the courts, the power she needed to begin the departure.

Theresa May told MPs "there was no turning back" after invoking Article 50. However, Lord John Kerr believes otherwise – and he wrote the thing.

Will Brexit happen – and how long will it take?

The official answer for how long it will take is two years. But, when you consider that when Greenland opted to leave the EU in 1982, it took them 3 years to get a deal done (and that was mainly about fishing arrangements), it seems unlikely everything will be negotiated within the next 18 to 24 months.

Even Mrs May, in her letter to the EU on Wednesday, admitted it would be "a challenge" to meet the two-year deadline. She remains committed to the target date of March 29, 2019, however.

Read next: As Article 50 is triggered, how will being outside the EU impact on the Grimsby area?

It may well be the PM's thinking that keeping such a tight deadline creates some urgency and puts pressure on EU members to concede that Britain should be able to trade tariff-free and under the same rules as it does now.

After all, if a clock is ticking, then it is easier to revert-to-type than thrash out something new. But that only works if the EU regards a 'no deal' situation as being equally as damaging for the 27 member bloc as it is for Britain.

As for whether Brexit will happen, the answer is – it already has. Article 50 is the first step on the long road out of Brussels.

The future of EU nationals living in the UK

A lot has been made about the status of those from EU countries who are living and working in towns like Grimsby after Brexit. Rural Lincolnshire spots, where seasonal fruit pickers are in dire need, are especially concerned.

The PM made good on her word that negotiating for EU citizens to stay put will be "a priority" in the early stages of the negotiations.

The Tory leader told the Commons in her statement on Article 50 that the rights of EU citizens in Britain and those of Brits on the Continent would be sorted "as early as we can".

"That is set out very clearly in the letter as an early priority for the talks ahead," Mrs May said.

What will happen to house prices in the Humber?

According to Google reports, Brexit's impact on house prices is one of people's main concerns.

While house prices in Grimsby remain relatively low compared with other parts of the country, that is relative given that wages are also lower than elsewhere.

The next two years, with the Brexit uncertainty, might not be the best period in which to find a buyer for your home. HM Revenue & Customs say transactions on houses fell by 9 per cent in the second half of 2016, compared with the same period in 2015.

Any hit on wages will need to be watched for. If Brexit does lead to job losses in the Humber, then mortgage repayments may fall beyond the reach of those hit by unemployment.

Will businesses be hurt by Brexit?

Much will depend on how the pound holds up and also what the final deal with the EU looks like.

The fall in the value of the pound has already seen the cost of Marmite and other household products go up, with the raw materials costing more to source.

And yesterday Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, warned that future investment in the Humber's-offshore wind industry could dry up if "turbulent" post-Brexit trading conditions end-up putting off the likes of Siemens or Dong Energy.

Read more: Council leader calls for more commitment from Westminster for green energy

Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes, called for assurances from the PM on another key industry in North East Lincolnshire – the seafood processing business.

Speaking after the PM's Article 50 statement, the Tory backbencher said those in the industry felt "both opportunity and concerns" over its future trading arrangements with the EU.

Mrs May confirmed said she would be working "not just for a good future for the fishing industry" but also "those parts of industries who rely on fishing" during the divorce talks.

What next for Brexit?

EU Council President Donald Tusk has replied to Mrs May's initial letter, having been handed it personally by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's ambassador to Brussels. There was no trusting the Royal Mail with this historic document.

But the real legwork will be done when the remaining 27 EU members meet without Britain on April 29 – exactly a month after Article 50 was triggered – to decide on their stance to the negotiations.

There is also the little matter of the final divorce settlement. Some predict the EU could call for a UK pay-out of up to £50billion.

Once the EU's negotiation stance has been agreed and published, Mrs May and her cohort will sit opposite their counterparts and begin to thrash out what Britain's future will look like outside of the EU. It has well and truly begun.

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