Britain has voted to leave the EUropean Union but how and when we do it is far from certain. Here are some ways it may happen
Britain will have a new Prime Minister on September 9 and their first job will be forming our new relationship with Europe.
Experts believe there are several different scenarios that could play out now that the nation has voted for Brexit.
Here, we look at five of the ways our next leader is most likely to proceed.
The next Prime Minister may decide saving our economy is the top priority after months of financial chaos following the referendum.
In desperation, Britain could agree to join the European Economic Area, a wider group which includes the 27 remaining EU countries plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
This would allow us to keep full access to the EU’s single market, minimising the damage to Britain’s economy. With no new trade barriers, firms can continue trading as before.
The markets would surge at the news, the pound would soar and investment start to flow back into the UK. But there is a big catch.
EEA countries must pay billions to the EU and accept free movement, so immigration could not be cut.
Expect Nigel Farage to scream blue murder.
The PM could be forced to call a referendum over the plan, and the nightmare of the past few months may begin again.
Norway ‘plus’ model
This was the proposal outlined by Health Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful (don’t laugh) Jeremy Hunt today.
In his view, the free movement of people across the European Union is simply unfair and unsustainable.
It has already been rejected by British voters and must be reformed if the EU is to survive at all.
Britain’s next PM could therefore refuse to trigger Article 50 straight away and instead begin negotiating a reform of free movement rules.
EU leaders would initially be angry, but may come to accept that if they fail to reform there will be more national referendums, and more countries breaking away from the bloc.
They could come back to the negotiating table and a genuine – though not total – clampdown on free movement is agreed.
Britain would then invoke Article 50 and agree a “Norway Plus” deal, where we are outside the European Union but with full access to the single market and restrictions on migration.
The deal could be put to voters via a general election in 2020.
The next Prime Minister may take the view that the shock Brexit result means cutting immigration is now the public’s top priority – and that people are prepared to take an economic hit to achieve it.
Britain could therefore trigger Article 50 later this year and begin the two-year process to leave the European Union.
We would abandon the single market and all that goes with it, so ending free movement of people between Britain and Europe.
New border controls would be imposed and an Australian-style points system introduced to cut immigration.
British officials would then thrash out a new trade deal with Europe, just as Canada has done.
However, it could take many years to complete. In the meantime, swingeing tariffs on trade may be imposed.
And it is certain that the final deal would be nowhere near as generous to trade as our current one as a full member of the single market.
This is the scenario which the Treasury fears most of all.
Initially cordial talks with Europe may quickly descend into acrimony as EU leaders clash with Britain’s new Prime Minister over our new trade deal.
Several European countries are keen to “punish” Britain for leaving the bloc, as a deterrent and warning to any other member states considering following suit.
They could therefore refuse to cede ground over key trade areas, meaning talks may well drag on without a deal.
The process for leaving the EU is heavily stacked in favour of the remaining countries, with any one of the 27 members able to veto the deal at any time.
And two years after the Article 50 process has been triggered, Britain will automatically fall out of the union.
At that stage, if no deal has been done, Britain defaults to World Trade Organisation rules.
This means big tariffs on food, clothes, cars and many other products.
The Treasury has predicted the hit to our economy would be crippling, and we would need the agreement of all 27 remaining EU countries to turn it around.
Go it alone
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick out of the blocks to claim the Brexit vote provided the grounds for a second referendum on independence .
Scotland, along with Northern Ireland, London and Gibraltar all voted overwhelmingly for Remain.
Ms Sturgeon is still pushing for a second independence ballot but she is also looking to see if Scotland could remain in the EU by other means.
On Wednesday she will travel to Brussels for talks on “protecting Scotland’s relationship with Europe.”
While London Mayor Sadiq Khan has ruled out turning the M25 into a border,
Gibraltar and Northern Ireland would watch what happens in Edinburgh with interest.
Northern Ireland, which would have the only EU border of post-Leave UK, could see the additional attraction of retaining its membership.
Some in Brussels are willing to look favourably on granting Scottish membership, not least because it would be one in the eye to England.
But there are significant obstacles.
Downing Street says foreign policy is solely the responsibility of Westminster.
And EU states such as Spain would not want to see Scotland given special treatment, for fear of encouraging Catalonia towards independence.