One West Country MP with a massive smile on their face described today, Thursday the 29th March 2017, as 'Freedom Day'. By lunchtime Theresa May will have sent the letter to the European Union formally triggering Article 50 and our two year negotiation to leave the Union.
For around half of West Country MP's so called Brexit is something they were campaigning for this time last year and today is the day they've been waiting for.
Whilst we have had a lot of promises and political rhetoric since 23rd June last year, when the UK voted to leave the EU, today is the first day something actually happens in the Brexit timetable. The two year window for negotiations could be shorter if an agreement is reached easily or it can be extended if all sides agree to an extension.
That said the Government is confident the negotiations won't need extending, but there are a lot of things to sort out including...
- the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and the rights of UK citizens living in the 27 EU nations.
- how or if the UK can have access to the Single Market, basically a free trade area of the EU nations with free movement of people, goods and services (things like financial services).
- how or if the UK can have access to the EU's Customs Union which is a trade area where members don't add tariffs onto others' goods.
- will the UK remain part of the policing structures in within the EU. Such as the European Arrest Warrant.
- fishing rights for UK fleets and who can fish in UK waters.
- farming subsides and how farmers can trade with the EU
- can or will the UK remain part of the Erasmus student exchange programme.
There are other areas to negotiate including passport rights (down to what queue we should be in at passport control) and the European Union health card (formally the E111). Alongside all of this though ministers are hoping to find time to negotiate a whole new trade deal with the EU.
Make no mistake this process won't be easy and the Government has already conceded there will be bumps along the way, but EU leaders and Theresa May keep saying they are confident a deal will be reached and the U.K. will continue to have a good relation with EU member states.
A number of our MPs are concerned that whist the Brexit decision divided the country, communities and even families, many may end up being disappointed with the final Brexit deal as compromises will be made. That said, many other MPs say they genuinely believe that we have a better future ahead outside the EU than within it.
The Prime Minister will tell MPs in the House of Commons later that this is a moment for everyone to come together and that she will fight for everyone in the UK to build a 'stronger, fairer Britain with a truly global outlook'. Her rhetoric about coming together means putting the remain/leave arguments of the referendum to one side and move on as well as showing the Scottish First Minister that now isn't a time for Scotland to have an independence referendum.
Theresa May knows whatever happens during these negotiations will define her career as a politician. The post Brexit future can't be predicted at this stage but one thing we can guarantee is getting there won't always be easy going.