LONDON, March 29, 2017— Brexit, long-debated, will be a reality.

As expected, the United Kingdom has given notice that it will be leaving the European Union, invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 50 sets a two-year window to renegotiate a new legal basis for Britain’s trade relationship with the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May began the formal steps for Brexit earlier today (March 29) after triggering Article 50, kicking off Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Brexit (short for British Exit) has consumed the media worldwide and has been a worry to global trade markets. British citizens voted in a referendum mid-2016 to exit the EU, roiling global markets, including currencies, causing the British pound to fall to its lowest level in decades.

Supporters of Brexit have based their opinions on a variety of factors, from the global competitiveness of British businesses to the European debt crisis to concerns about immigration. Britain had already opted out of the European Union's monetary union--meaning that it uses the pound instead of the euro.

However, what does the reality of Brexit mean for exporters and importers in Europe and in the United States?

According to Forbes, the negative impact in the U.S. on exports is relatively small compared with trends in domestic demand, but “the deflationary pressure on tradable goods will widen the divergence between reasonably strong inflation in the services sector vs. reasonably strong deflation in the goods sector.” Analysts say the ability to trade with the U.S. on current terms will not be affected. However, the UK will not be part of the controversial TTIP trade deal between the EU and the U.S.

One of the most contentious points of the Brexit debate was the UK's trade relations with the EU. A new trade deal is expected to be one of the most difficult and important parts of the two-year negotiations.

The UK intends to leave the EU's single market and may leave the EU customs union, through which Britain enjoys tariff-free trade. If no trade deal is agreed upon, the UK would have to trade with the EU under World Trade Organization rules, which could lead to new tariffs and regulations.

While the UK most likely has the skills to renegotiate trade agreements, the group might find it difficult to pull off a wide range of bilateral and regional trade deals within a short time frame. Undertaking a broad suite of regional and bilateral trade negotiations requires a significant number of qualified and experienced individuals.

A few immediate consequences seem highly likely.

If UK commercial functions are looking for alternative routes outside the EU, then this will create a negative forecast for existing suppliers as well as enticing new global entrants. It is a big threat for existing suppliers and an opportunity for buyers. The competitive advantage lies in using the option to switch and negotiate better deals now with incumbent supply chains. That unknown impact of Brexit creates a genuine challenge for supply chains and means that purchasing has a pivotal role to play in helping to mitigate increases and manage risks.

After the June 2016 referendum to leave the EU, the economic market demonstrated currency swings. This is highly likely to continue post-Brexit. Supply chain professionals should map out their geographical sources for goods and identify where currency fluctuations may hit.

Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any EU member the right to quit unilaterally, and outlines the procedure for doing so. It gives the leaving country two years to negotiate an exit deal and once it's set in motion it can't be stopped except by unanimous consent of all member states.

No country has ever left the EU before, and there was no way to exit the EU legally before the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in 2007.