The longer this "leaving the EU thing" goes on for and the more events that transpire, the less likely I think is to happen in the way most people think, ie, someone triggers article 50 and two years later, off we go.
I don't go in for conspiracy theories, but the way the Tory leadership election and Labour coup have progressed you'd begin to wonder. Here is my guess on what happens next, just for fun!
- Theresa May (TM) becomes PM
- XYZ becomes Labour leader, who knows / cares at this stage, they're happily imploding by themselves.
- TM has no mandate but starts "tough" negotiations with EU.
- Some time passes
- TM gets "best" deal she can from EU, which will be better than the one Cameron got. It won't realise the free having and eating of cake of full access to single market whilst having total control over freedom of movement of people. The UK will still pay some millions of pounds into EU budget every month still.
- TM says it's a good deal, it isn't full EU departure but she feels the mood of the public has changed since June 2016. She needs a mandate to sign up to it, but rather having another referendum she calls a slightly early general election, because apparently parliament would need to vote to trigger Article 50, so is the logical choice to seek the will of the people to proceed.
- Then I hedge my bets, either the Tories win a fresh majority and sign up to the deal agreed, or the Tories are the largest party, but without an overall majority, and enter into a supply and confidence arrangement with Lib Dems (who are never going into Government again after last time). This assumes we don't leave because the price for Lib Dem support will be not triggering Art 50 because they will campaign on a pro EU ticket. I think this is quite likely given the way they were booted out by the Tories last time and the present wafer thin Tory majority - more voter remorse.
The main reasons people voted to leave were immigration, paying into the EU and then the inability to trade more widely with the world (whether correctly presented or not).
1) Paying into the EU; this will be reduced by a token amount, maybe 85% ish of current totals. Contributions will be made to facilitate access to the single market on low / no tariffs.
2) Immigration; "tough" new guidelines will be agreed to allow us to stop anyone we like, aside from students, those with jobs, those with families living here, those EU nationals already living here, those who want to move here to start a business etc, all good positive reasons. But the theory will remain that we can bring up the drawbridge if we want to, but most people get in anyway.
3) Trade; probably still get access to the single market with some concessions (banks / financial services probably) on the back of the above and with a foot and a half out of the door we can negotiate our own deals with third party countries whilst making those deals in line with EU rules or with due consideration to them.
Downsides for the UK will be that we either have no influence in the EU institutions, or a proportionately reduced level of influence with no / a token few MEP's and only maybe a seat at extraordinary debates, or those which *should* be above politics - war / economic sanctions, climate change, intelligence gathering and sharing, crime / extradition deals etc.
This should allow the EU institutions to threaten enough stick to other Eurozone countries thinking about leaving; leave, but you still have to pay, accept freedom of movement of people, you get no decision making abilities and it's infinitely more complicated if you're in the Eurozone, so don't even think it, mate. Whether that will make any difference to Italy's failing banks who knows, those events may overtake all else.
At the end of the day a huge amount of distress and upheaval is created for marginal (but arguably beneficial) changes to our relationship with the EU and as always, it'll be the lawyers who win!
As an aside, in a bid to be positive rather than cynical, I do think it is to our remarkable general credit that a Muslim can be elected London Mayor and a female can be installed as PM with hardly any fallout. Yes TM doesn't have a mandate, but neither did Gordon Brown when he became PM in 2007. Well done us.