The big, red Brexit button: When will the UK invoke Article 50?
KNUTSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 24: A European Union flag, with a hole cut in the middle, flies at half-mast outside a home in Knutsford Cheshire after today's historic referendum on June 24, 2016 in Knutsford, United Kingdom. The results from the historic EU referendum has now been declared and the United Kingdom has voted to LEAVE the European Union. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The formal process of extricating a nation from the EU is laid out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and starts with the leader of that nation informing the European Council that their country wants out. So when does the U.K. formally push the Brexit button?
Many U.K. politicians — including several leaders of the Brexit movement — are in no rush to start the process. That's partly to buy more time for negotiation; once Article 50 is triggered, diplomats have just two years to figure out the fine details before the treaties binding the U.K. to the EU expire.
There's also the matter of who will be leading those negotiations. We won't know who is replacing the outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron until party elections in October; the outcome of that vote could dramatically influence how the talks go.
On the other hand, several EU leaders are agitating for the U.K. to pull the trigger and be done with it, arguing a messy and prolonged process would increase instability and financial uncertainty in the region.
There's another reason U.K. leaders are dragging their heels — once Article 50 is invoked, the terms of the U.K.'s exit can only be approved or vetoed by the rest of the European Council. So triggering Article 50 would prevent the U.K. from, say, getting cold feet and holding another referendum to stay in the EU — the decision would be out of the country's hands at that point.