But forget what he says... it’s full steam ahead as PM sets Ar­ti­cle 50 trig­ger date

Daily Mail - - News - By Political Editor

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.

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