After a period of planning, the prime minister announced Britain’s negotiating objectives for exiting the EU in January 2017. The focus: British sovereignty, a lack of hard borders between Northern Ireland and Ireland, control of immigration, the future rights of British nationals in the EU and EU nationals in Britain, free trade with Europe, and trade deals with other countries.
Article 50 was finally triggered on 29 March 2017, starting the official two-year countdown to Brexit. What followed was a period of planning by EU and UK negotiators, lasting until June 2017 when negotiations began. In the interim, Theresa May called a snap election, hoping to boost the Tory’s parliamentary majority and strengthen the government’s bargaining power with EU leaders.
The plan backfired spectacularly, however, as the Conservatives lost their majority and were forced to form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Some argue this has weakened the government’s negotiating power and will force Britain to pursue a softer Brexit (as parliamentary approval of the final deal is required).