Tuesday 21 March 2017

Brexit Countdown Begins


The Prime Minister will formally notify Brussels of the UK's exit in nine days time, beginning the two-year countdown until Brexit is complete.

It will also kick off the timetable for formal talks on Britain's exit, with the 27 remaining EU member states set to outline their negotiating position later next week.

Britain's ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow this morning informed the office of European Council President Donald Tusk of the UK’s intention to invoke Article 50 next Wednesday.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said: "Last June, the people of the UK made the historic decision to leave the EU.

"Next Wednesday, the Government will deliver on that decision and formally start the process by triggering Article 50.

"We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation.

"The Government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the EU."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman confirmed Mrs May will inform the EU of Britain's exit in writing to Mr Tusk before making a statement to MPs next week.

He said: "Earlier this morning, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU informed the office of Donald Tusk that it is the UK's intention to trigger Article 50 on March 29.

"There will be a letter. She will notify President Tusk in writing. The Prime Minister will give a statement to Parliament as well.

"We have always been clear that we will trigger by the end of March and we have met that timetable."

The spokesman said Britain wanted to start withdrawal negotiations "promptly", but accepts that "it is right that the 27 have a chance to agree their position" before talks start.

In response, Mr Tusk revealed he will present the EU's draft negotiating guidenlines to the remaining EU 27 member states within 48 hours of receiving the Article 50 notification.

It follows last week's successful passage of the Article 50 Bill through Parliament, which has handed Mrs May the legal power to formally notify Brussels of Britain's departure.

The Prime Minister had promised to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, meaning she is set to reach her self-imposed deadline with two days to spare.

Mrs May will this week tour Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland before formally triggering Brexit. She began by visiting Swansea this morning.

In reaction to the news, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall said: “We welcome the long overdue announcement but regret it’s nine month delay caused by political indecision, House of Lords betrayal and a number of legal challenges.

"It’s late and we don’t want to wait. Now let’s crack on with it and stop procrastinating. It’s time for Britain to go global.”

Former Tory chairman Sir Eric Pickles described next Wednesday as a "massive moment" for the UK but cast doubt on the Government being able to wrap up Article 50 talks quickly, adding: "I'm pleased that we're getting on with it.

"If we know anything about our dear friends in the EU it's a five-to-midnight organisation. So I'm not quite as confident that everything will be sorted out quite so quickly."

It was highlighted how March 29 is the birthday of former prime minister Sir John Major, who has made a series of interventions against Brexit. It is also the birthday of Brexit-supporting Cabinet minister Priti Patel.

Asked whether the International Development Secretary would consider the Article 50 notification a birthday present from Mrs May, a spokesman told Express.co.uk: "Priti has already got her present from the Prime Minister. It's the plan for Britain which will ensure the economy works for the whole of the UK."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who is campaigning for a second EU referendum, said: “Theresa May is embarking on an extreme and divisive Brexit. She has rushed this through without a plan, and without a clue.

“On the day Theresa May is travelling the country claiming she wants to bring the UK together, she lets it be known she is about to unleash division and bitterness.

“She has chosen the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit, choosing to take us out of the Single Market before she has even tried to negotiate. That’s why we believe the people should have the final say over the Conservative Brexit deal.

“Membership of the Single Market is vital for the British economy and for the jobs of millions of British people. Leaving the Single Market was not on the ballot paper in the referendum, it is a political choice made by Theresa May.

“Meanwhile, with the country in desperate need of an Official Opposition, Labour has declared war on itself rather than defending the people from a hard Brexit.

“You can’t have a rushed Brexit and a strong, united country.”

Labour MP Pat McFadden, a supporter of Open Britain campaign, said: “The phony period is nearly over, and the real work of negotiations are about to begin.

“As she enters talks with our European partners, it is up to the Prime Minister to deliver the deal that she and her ministers have promised. That means a trade agreement that gives us the “exact same benefits” as we have now on access to the European market.

“The Government has promised a Brexit deal that will not damage our economy and put jobs at risk. They need to meet the tests they have set themselves.”



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