Britain to pull Brexit trigger by end-March, says PM May

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivering a speech on the first day of the Conservative party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, central England, on Oct 2.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivering a speech on the first day of the Conservative party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, central England, on Oct 2. PHOTO: AFP

BIRMINGHAM • Britain could be out of the European Union by 2019, after British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would start the formal process for Brexit by the end of March next year.

Mrs May, who had been under pressure from politicians and businesses since becoming prime minister in July to offer a timetable for her Brexit plan, made the announcement at the opening of the Conservative Party's annual conference in Birmingham yesterday.

"Brexit means Brexit, and we're going to make a success of it," the Prime Minister said, invoking her oft-repeated catchphrase to applause from party members.

But she told the party conference that there would be no "blow by blow" account of the negotiations that the government would hold with the EU as an "independent sovereign" Britain.

"Every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain," she said.

In June, Britain's shock vote to leave the EU, its biggest trading partner, shook financial markets and plunged the pound sterling to record lows.

To get the process going, Mrs May will have to trigger Article 50 of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which will give Britain a two-year period to clinch one of the most complex deals in Europe since World War II.

Under her plan, Brexit will be completed in 2019, 46 years after the country joined the EU.

In an interview with the BBC broadcast hours before her speech, she said: "Now that they know what our timing is going to be... (I hope) that we'll be able to have some preparatory work so that, once the trigger comes, we have a smoother process of negotiation."

She also said that she would introduce a Bill next year to convert all EU laws into British legislation on the day that Brexit is completed.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

SEE TOP OF THE NEWS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Britain to pull Brexit trigger by end-March, says PM May'. Print Edition | Subscribe