But forget what he says... it’s full steam ahead as PM sets Article 50 trigger date
BRITAIN was last night on course to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, after Theresa May confirmed formal divorce proceedings will begin next week.
Downing Street yesterday said the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday next week, paving the way for the UK to leave two years later.
EU Council President Donald Tusk was informed of the decision yesterday by Sir Tim Barrow, UK ambassador to the EU.
The Prime Minister said she will now strive to get ‘the best possible deal for the United Kingdom’ during talks that are expected to be bitter and protracted.
Speaking during a visit to Swansea yesterday, Mrs May said: ‘I have set out my objectives. These include getting a good free trade deal.
‘They include putting issues like continuing working together on issues like security at the core of what we are doing.
‘We are going to be out there, negotiating hard, delivering on what the British people voted for.’
The timing of Article 50 means it will fall on the birthday of the Europhile former prime minister Sir John Major, whose attacks on Brexit have been strident.
Asked if the PM expects the UK to be free from the EU exactly two years later, her official spokesman said: ‘We expect this to be a twoyear process and we are confident that is what we will achieve.’
Downing Street said Mrs May would make a statement to the Commons next week after triggering Article 50, when she is expected to give further details of her plan.
This will include a formal government white paper setting out the framework for the Great Repeal Bill, which will transpose existing EU law onto the statute book to help smooth the path to Brexit. Mr Tusk said the EU would give an initial response within 48 hours of formal notification next week.
But formal talks are unlikely to get started until May or even June as the EU tries to agree a common negotiating position between its 27 remaining member states.
Mrs May is pushing for a quick deal to secure the residency of rights of 3.2million EU citizens living in this country and 1.2million Brits living in Europe before tackling the main negotiations.
Ministers are resisting calls to make a £50billion ‘divorce pay- ment’, but are anxious to negotiate a new trade deal with Brussels in parallel to the exit talks.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said the move would initiate ‘the most important negotiation for this country for a generation’.
He said the Government was aiming to secure ‘a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union’.
It will be the first time that the provisions of Article 50 of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, establishing the modern European Union, have been activated. The article sets out the process for any EU member state ‘to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’, and carries a two-year lock – which means any member state to trigger it will automatically drop out of the block two years later. .
The Scottish Government complained it was not notified of the announcement. Mrs May will visit all four nations of the UK before triggering Article 50 next week.