Prime min­is­ter: Bri­tain will launch Brexit by April

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Dan­ica Kirka

LONDON >> Bri­tain will be­gin the for­mal process of leav­ing the Euro­pean Union by the end of March, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said Sun­day, seek­ing to ease con­cern about the na­tion’s fu­ture and the threat of re­duced for­eign in­vest­ment and the weak­en­ing of the econ­omy.

Mem­bers of the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party ap­plauded wildly as May said the Bri­tish peo­ple had made it clear that they wanted a clear date for ex­it­ing the EU and that she was go­ing to de­liver. Euro­pean lead­ers and com­pany ex­ec­u­tives have pushed the govern­ment to say when it plans to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 of the EU treaty, start­ing talks on the U.K.’s de­par­ture, so they can be­gin pre­par­ing for a post-EU Bri­tain.

“We will in­voke it when we are ready, and we will be ready soon,” she said. “We will in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 no later than the end of March next year.”

While the prime min­is­ter had pre­vi­ously hinted that she planned to ini­ti­ate Bri­tain’s exit early next year, many ob­servers had spec­u­lated she would wait un­til the con­clu­sion of France’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in May or per­haps even the Ger­man elec­tions in late sum­mer or fall of next year.

But bask­ing in the glow of party acolytes, a beam­ing May sounded as if she had cam­paigned for Bri­tain to leave the EU all along — even though she had op­posed that out­come be­fore the June 23 ref­er­en­dum. In what sounded like a stump speech for “leave,” she hit on the emo­tive is­sues of sovereignty, im­mi­gra­tion and world sta­tus.

She in­sisted there would be no un­nec­es­sary de­lays in bring­ing Brexit to pass — and that Bri­tain would fight any legal chal­lenges in­tended to de­rail the move. She sternly re­jected the idea that the govern­ment would cir­cum­vent the re­sult, mak­ing a face as she com­mented on those still fight­ing to stay.

An­a­lysts said the deadline for start­ing the talks was wel­come, but busi­nesses still need more de­tail about what Brexit will mean for trade and im­mi­gra­tion.

While Bri­tain seeks to con­trol im­mi­gra­tion from the EU, free move­ment of la­bor is a found­ing prin­ci­ple of the bloc. This means that any re­stric­tions on im­mi­gra­tion are likely to re­sult in bar­ri­ers to trade be­tween Bri­tain and the EU, said Jonathan Portes, a se­nior fel­low at the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search.

“That means con­tin­ued un­cer­tainty for busi­nesses, both those who trade with the EU and those who em­ploy EU na­tion­als,” Portes tweeted. “What we can­not do is de­lude our­selves that we can ‘have our cake and eat it.’”

In ad­di­tion to set­ting out her timetable, the prime min­is­ter said she would ask Par­lia­ment to re­peal the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ties Act, which au­to­mat­i­cally makes EU rules the law of the land in Bri­tain. At the same time, the govern­ment will in­cor­po­rate all EU laws into Bri­tish law and then re­peal mea­sures as nec­es­sary on a case-by­case ba­sis, she said.

“That means that the United King­dom will be an in­de­pen­dent, sov­er­eign na­tion,” she said. “It will be mak­ing its own laws.”

May said that by of­fer­ing a timetable now, she hopes to en­cour­age the EU to be­gin pre­lim­i­nary work that will help the ne­go­ti­a­tions go smoothly once they be­gin. EU lead­ers so far have re­jected any such dis­cus­sions.

The pres­i­dent of the 28-na­tion EU’s gov­ern­ing Euro­pean Coun­cil, Don­ald Tusk, of­fered sup­port for her po­si­tion. He had told her at a re­cent Down­ing Street meet­ing that the “ball is now in your court.”

“PM May’s dec­la­ra­tion brings wel­come clar­ity on start of Brexit talks,” he tweeted Sun­day. “Once Art. 50’s trig­gered, EU27 will en­gage to safe­guard its in­ter­ests.”

One of the big­gest stick­ing points in any talks will be im­mi­gra­tion.

The per­cep­tion that EU im­mi­grants have strained pub­lic ser­vices and changed the face of many com­mu­ni­ties was a fac­tor for many Bri­tish cit­i­zens who voted to leave the EU. May said that she in­tends to heed pub­lic opin­ion on that point.

“Apart from the mes­sage of leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, I think there was also a clear mes­sage from the Bri­tish peo­ple that they wanted us to con­trol move­ment of peo­ple from the EU com­ing into the UK, so we will de­liver on that,” she said.

May also flatly re­jected the idea that el­e­ments within the United King­dom might be able to ne­go­ti­ate a deal for them­selves. The mes­sage was clearly aimed at Scot­land, which only nar­rowly re­jected an in­de­pen­dence move in 2014 and had voted over­whelm­ingly to stay in the EU. Scot­land wants a place at the ta­ble be­cause of its nu­mer­ous trade ties with the EU.

“We will ne­go­ti­ate as one United King­dom and we will leave the Euro­pean Union as one United King­dom. There is no opt-out for Brexit,” May told the con­fer­ence. “I will never al­low di­vi­sive na­tion­al­ists to un­der­mine the pre­cious union be­tween the four na­tions of our United King­dom.”

Crit­ics quickly pounced on the first tan­gi­ble moves on the process in weeks. Con­ser­va­tive Anna Soubry, a for­mer min­is­ter who is in the Tory pro-Europe wing of the party, told ITV that she was con­cerned that May would trig­ger the ar­ti­cle so soon, warn­ing that com­pa­nies such as Nis­san might leave with­out a deal on the sin­gle mar­ket.

“Trig­ger­ing Brexit as early as March re­ally con­cerns me, trou­bles me hugely, be­cause we won’t have had the French elec­tions, we won’t have had the Ger­man elec­tions, and I’m sorry, it is go­ing to take a lot of time and ef­fort to dis­en­tan­gle our­selves and get the right deal,” she said.

The op­po­si­tion Labour Party asked for more clar­ity on the pro­pos­als. Stephen Kin­nock, a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from Aber­avon, said May has yet to say what leav­ing will mean in prac­tice.

“The Brexit process will give this govern­ment more power to re-shape Bri­tain than any govern­ment has had since the Sec­ond World War,” he said in a state­ment. “And yet what Brexit means is still un­clear, and the govern­ment has no spe­cific man­date for its ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion, as­sum­ing that it has one.”


Pro­test­ers bran­dish var­i­ous plac­ards and signs as they gather at an anti-aus­ter­ity demon­stra­tion out­side the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence in Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land, on Sun­day.

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