There is no need to rush something as complex as Brexit

Morning View
Morning View

The prime minister has sought to demonstrate that she is decisive since she was suddenly propelled into Downing Street in July.

It is understandable that Theresa May felt the need to stamp her authority on her parliamentary party, with a swift and ruthless reshuffle, and also that she sought to emphasise that Brexit means Brexit.

Having supported the Remain side in the referendum, Mrs May was anxious to allay any concerns that she might try to wriggle out of implementing the June 23 vote.

Any hint of such ambivalence would have ruined her prospects of becoming Tory leader or of sustaining such leadership, once it had been secured. But this anxiety should not lead to her rushing the next moves for the United Kingdom.

A view has arisen, both among passionate supporters of Brexit and among nations that are unsympathetic to Britain in the EU, that the Brexit vote must be followed quickly by the triggering Article 50. But once the article has been triggered, it is two years before the country leaves the European Union. This is blip in historical terms.

Leaving the EU is a huge step. This newspaper was among those who argued that it was appropriate, while acknowledging how painful it would be. After 43 years in the EU or its predecessor formations, departure should take time.

While immigration was clearly at the heart of the UK’s decision to endorse Leave, voters were not asked what form of Brexit they wanted – and there are many forms.

Mrs May has said that Article 50 will be triggered by March 30 at the latest. In that case she should aim for the end of that timeframe. There are even arguments for delaying until the autumn, to see how elections in Germany and France play out (with the UK not participating in May 2019 MEP elections).

There are many factors for the government to examine, not least over the Irish border, and there should be no sense of embarrassment at both vowing to implement Brexit but wanting to think hard about exactly how to do that.