Britain to pull Brexit trigger on March 29

Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Britain's divorce proceedings with the European Union on March 29, launching two years of negotiations that will reshape the future of the country and Europe.

LONDON • Britain said yesterday it will trigger its exit from the European Union on March 29, nine months after it voted to leave.

Triggering Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure for leaving the bloc, will open a two-year timetable for difficult negotiations, meaning Britain could be out of the EU by 2019.

"The UK's Permanent Representative to the EU informed the office of (EU president) Donald Tusk that it is the UK's intention to trigger Article 50 on March 29," Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman told reporters, adding that Mrs May would notify Mr Tusk in writing and then give a speech to the British Parliament.

Britain voted in a referendum by a 52 per cent majority last June to leave the EU, the first member state to do so.

The European Commission (EC), whose chief negotiator Michel Barnier will spearhead the talks with London, said it is ready for the Brexit process. Mr Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for EC chief Jean-Claude Juncker, said: "Everything is ready on this side."

British Brexit Minister David Davis said in a statement that Britons had approved a "historic decision" to leave the EU after four decades of membership.

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

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

The EC is expected to provide an initial answer to Britain's Article 50 notification within 48 hours, but negotiations are not expected to start for several weeks or even months.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Britain to pull Brexit trigger on March 29'. Print Edition | Subscribe