Will the result of the general election impact on Brexit?

Remainers have seized on it as a potential opportunity to move away from the 'hard Brexit’ Theresa May seemed set on, or even press the case for a second referendum. Brexiteers, meanwhile, have pointed to the returned MPs as being "the most pro-Brexit House of Commons has ever elected".

There is no doubt the result creates a challenge for those responsible for negotiating the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU, but that doesn't mean Brexit isn't going to happen. In fact, it means it is even more important for businesses to begin preparing and building plans around what Brexit may look like.

Although the general election may have ramped up the levels of uncertainty faced by UK businesses, Brexit is still a near certainty. Article 50 was triggered in April 2017 and the two-year clock is now counting down the days, weeks and months until 29 March 2019 – the date of the UK’s departure.

But is it possible for the process to be stopped? The short answer to this is 'possibly' - but it's simply not clear.

The EU itself acknowledges in an EU Parliament resolution that the UK could revoke its notification of withdrawal. However it suggests this would be subject to “conditions set by all EU27 so they cannot be used as a procedural device or abused in an attempt to improve the actual terms of the United Kingdom’s membership”.

This has been taken by some to presume that the EU27 would need to agree to the UK's revocation of Article 50 being triggered. However, the House of Lords asked senior lawyers for their opinions on this topic. Their view was that a country could not be forced to go through with withdrawal if it did not want to. They also confirmed there is nothing in the wording of Article 50 that would prevent a country from revoking its withdrawal notice.  Neither viewpoint has been tested in the courts and therefore there is no definitive view. The Supreme Court, when hearing the infamous case brought by Gina Miller, was not required to consider this specific question, although it assumed that an Article 50 notice could not be withdrawn once given. Yet more uncertainty, then.

These turbulent political times make it all the more essential that businesses, of all shapes and sizes, develop a Brexit plan. While the nature of Brexit (hard, soft, red white and blue, transitional) will be subject to negotiation, businesses should be taking steps now to ensure they are ready for whatever comes.

Deal or no deal, change is just around the corner and businesses must be ready to react. Although the nature of change is still an unknown, there are a number of potential scenarios that should be considered and assessed.

Thrings has further guidance for your Brexit planning. Please click here to visit our ‘Business of Brexit’ pages. Thrings has also produced a 10-step guide to help businesses prepare for Brexit.

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