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Is the UK set for a quick exit from the EU?

UK exit from EU

Theresa May appears to have settled into her new role as prime minister this week, using her first prime minister's questions debut to launch a substantial attack on the credentials of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In a performance that saw her compared to former leader Margaret Thatcher, May is continuing to impress British Conservatives, many of whom regard the former home secretary as a tough-talking politician that does not shy away from getting her point across.

But while her parliamentary jibes against Corbyn will have certainly aided her reputation among the UK's right, May still faces a number of questions, particularly in light of the recent Brexit vote.

The decision to leave the European Union will undoubtedly take the UK into uncharted economic and cultural waters, so it is perhaps no surprise that May is understandably reluctant to activate the fabled Article 50 legislation without first coming to a decision as what will be the best process for the nation.

The new prime minister has subsequently asked European leaders for time to prepare for negotiations, a process that has sparked a whole range of possible timeframes from analysts. However, May has insisted that "Brexit means Brexit", meaning that goalposts look in little danger of being moved in terms of honouring the referendum results.

Close ties

May has already taken steps to try and ensure that Britain maintains a good relationship with Europe, particularly Germany.
Shortly after winning the leadership race, May spoke to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny about what relations between Britain and Europe might look like within a post-Brexit world.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "On all the phone calls, the Prime Minister emphasised her commitment to delivering the will of the British people to leave the European Union.

"The Prime Minister explained that we would need some time to prepare for these negotiations and spoke of her hope that these could be conducted in a constructive and positive spirit."

According to the Daily Telegraph, a spokesman for German chancellor Merkel said that both countries had agreed on the importance of "friendly ties" during the exit process and in terms of long-term international relations.

Speedy exit?

But while Merkel seems willing to show patience towards the UK's Brexit plans, not everyone in Europe is seemingly so understanding.

During her call with French president Francois Hollande, May was urged to speed up the process of exiting the EU.

"The president of the republic has phoned Theresa May, congratulating her with the appointment to the post of the prime minister of the United Kingdom…The president reminded [May] about his wish to start talks on the UK exit from the European Union as soon as possible," the French presidency said in a statement.

That statement echoes the sentiments shared during a recent meeting between foreign ministers from the EU's six founding member states, which demanded the UK leave the bloc as soon as possible in order to avoid an extended limbo period.

A number onlookers in the UK may well view such thinking as another example of a lack of understanding from Europe, although there is evidence to suggest that waiting around could prove detrimental to certain British industries.

Financial services and technology law specialist Yvonne Dunn of Pinsent Masons, told Out-Law.com that the financial technology industry would be just one of the areas to be hit hardest by a prolonged period of uncertainty.

"A range of factors have contributed to the UK, and London in particular, having developed into a centre for fintech innovation," Dunn said. "The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is widely recognised as leading the world in terms of a progressive approach to fintech regulation and in engaging with fintech start-ups eager to operate in the UK market. It is one of the main reasons why fintechs looking to set up in Europe choose to base themselves in London and not other financial centres."

The exact time frame of a swift exit from the EU may well be subjective, but there is little doubt that negotiating HMS UK through the choppy waters of a post-Brexit world will surely be the first item on the new prime minister's agenda.