This will take years

British politics increasing revolves around when and how Article 50 will be triggered and what will happen in the following two years. In fact, rather less will happen than is assumed in much media commentary. “These are purely divorce talks”, Cliff Taylor noted in the Irish Times. Ian Dunt of the London School of Economics set it out clearly in a blog back in July: “This two-year Article 50 timetable doesn’t even apply to trade. Article 50 only applies to constitutional and legal arrangements. And more importantly it only applies to ending your current arrangements – not building ones for the future ….Actually, it’s against the law for EU member states (we’d [the UK] still be an EU member state until the end of the two-year process) to conduct bilateral trade negotiations with other member states or countries.” The formal position is therefore that divorce proceedings must be completed before discussions on new relationships can begin. It is theoretically possible that the UK and EU could agree to conduct parallel negotiations on both withdrawal and future trading arrangements within the two-year period but it would require a degree of goodwill that right now seems very unlikely.