After a measured response from the Europeans, has the Article 50 process got off to a good start?

The Article 50 letter (Source: Getty)

Andrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, says Yes.

Article 50 could hardly have got off to a better start. Sure there has been some sabre-rattling about parallel divorce and trade talks, and a few have jumped on Brexit to try to gain political advantage (Spain with Gibraltar, Sturgeon with IndyRef2).

But back in the real world, firms like Siemens and Novo Nordisk have continued a phenomenal run of good corporate news, encouraging optimism that Brexit brings at least as many opportunities as it does risks. The UK’s negotiation adversaries had months to prepare what turned out in the end to be a rather muted response, striking for its lack of unity.

The UK is in a powerfully strong position, bolstered by the fact that so many member states need a deal that preserves the UK’s sizeable trade deficit with the EU. Britain’s negotiating power is likely to be enhanced further once voters in EU countries like France, which are even more sensitive than Brits about immigration, realise that the UK is able to control its own borders once again – and they will want the same.

Chris Rumfitt, founder and chief executive of Field Consulting, says No.

A few days into the Article 50 process and it hasn’t been an edifying spectacle so far.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter was not a subtle communication, with the security “threat” to the forefront and the S word itself used 11 times over the six pages. While it may be Britain’s strongest card, to play it so crudely right at the very start of negotiations hardly sets a positive tone.

And the Europeans may not “play nice” either, with Angela Merkel immediately declaring that trade talks would not begin until the UK had agreed to pay its “exit bill” – publicly torpedoing a key part of the UK strategy to discuss this alongside wider issues. Don’t expect anything to happen quickly.

With French and German elections on the horizon, expect a phoney war over the summer before things get interesting in the autumn. Let’s hope the next two years are conducted in a better spirit than the first days have been.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles