Britain formally triggers Article 50 to leave the EU

Britain formally triggers Article 50 to leave the EU

Published time: 29 Mar, 2017 11:27

Forty-four years after joining the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the modern day EU, Britain has triggered Article 50 to begin formal divorce talks with the bloc.
Appearing at the House of Commons despatch box for the regular weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement to MPs confirming the start of the two-year extraction process.

At the same time, British ambassador to Brussels Tim Barrow delivered a letter signed by the PM to the European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels. Once it was accepted, Article 50 was officially triggered.

Read May’s letter to Donald Tusk triggering Article 50 here

Speaking to MPs, May said: “The article 50 process is now underway … the UK is leaving the EU.

“This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the EU. We are going to make our own decisions, our own laws.”

“Our best days lie ahead. I am confident we have the vision and the plan to build a better Britain.”

May says the UK will not try to “cherry pick” in Brexit talks, and wants “smooth” and “orderly” negotiations.

She confirms the rights of the 3 million EU nationals in Britain will be an early priority in negotiations.

May has conceded there will be “consequences” to leaving, but it is in the interests of both the UK and the EU that there is as little disruption as possible.

“I want the UK to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and outward looking than ever before.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the “reckless and damaging” direction of Brexit, responding to May’s statement in the House of Commons.

He has vowed that Labour will not give the government a “free hand” – to jeers from MPs, because he demanded they vote for Article 50.

He went on to say Britain must not become a “tax dodgers’ paradise” or a “low wage tax haven.”

He says Labour will use “every parliamentary opportunity to ensure this government is held to account at every stage.”

Tusk is expected to make a statement in the Europa building on Wednesday, and copies of May’s letter will be sent to the leaders of all other 27 EU member states.

In a leaked response to May’s Article 50 letter seen by the EURACTIV site, Tusk will say the EU is “ready” to walk away if trade talks break down. It has vowed to act “as one” to limit the damage caused by Brexit and the rest of the bloc.

He is expected to say the EU’s priority is to “minimize the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states.”

“We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner.”

He will add that if negotiations fail, the Council would make sure that the “European Union is ready for such an outcome even though we do not desire it.”

Tusk’s initial response will set out draft guidelines for how the 27 EU countries intend to approach the negotiations. He will then arrange a special summit of the EU27, expected to be held within the next few weeks, where they will finalize their objectives for Brexit.

As the European Parliament will also want a say in how talks will be conducted, it could be several weeks before they begin.

After Article 50 is triggered, there are two years to complete negotiations.

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