May's Brexit timeline brings clarity: EU president

Britain's Prime Minister speaking at the opening of the Conservative Party's annual conference yesterday. Some British politicians feared that triggering Article 50 so early could put pressure on Britain as elections in France and Germany next year c
Britain's Prime Minister speaking at the opening of the Conservative Party's annual conference yesterday. Some British politicians feared that triggering Article 50 so early could put pressure on Britain as elections in France and Germany next year could change London's partners in the middle of talks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But some question March timing, before elections in Germany, France

LONDON • European Union president Donald Tusk said British Prime Minister Theresa May's statement on the timing of Brexit talks brought "welcome clarity" to the situation.

Mrs May, in a speech at the opening of the Conservative Party's annual conference yesterday, said that Britain would trigger the two-year process to leave the EU by the end of March.

On his Twitter feed, Mr Tusk said that the other 27 EU states would engage to safeguard their interests once Article 50 was formally triggered.

The early-2017 timetable is roughly in line with what European leaders who have met Mrs May have said they expected.

Leading Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith said the Prime Minister had set a "fairly reasonable" timetable and thought Article 50 could be triggered sooner than March, according to the BBC.

Others said they feared that triggering Article 50 so early could put pressure on Britain as elections in France and Germany next year could change London's partners in the middle of talks.

One of them was former Conservative minister and Remain campaigner Anna Soubry, who said she was "hugely" concerned about triggering Article 50 "as early as March" before French and German elections had taken place.

SKILLED TALENT STILL WELCOME

We will always welcome those with the skills, the drive and the expertise to make our nation better still. If we are to win in the global marketplace, we must win the global battle for talent.

BREXIT SECRETARY DAVID DAVIS, noting that the government will bring down immigration after Britain completes its withdrawal from the EU, but that Brexit does not mean "pulling up the drawbridge".

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was "depressing" that government decisions were "being driven by ideology of the hard Brexiters, rather than interests of country", BBC said.

Immigration was one of the main driving forces behind Britain's decision to leave the EU in June.

The government will bring down immigration after Britain completes its withdrawal from the EU, Brexit Secretary David Davis said, responding to what he called a "clear message" from the country's referendum in June.

Britain will also strive to preserve the "freest possible trade" with the EU's other 27 members post-Brexit, Mr Davis told delegates at the conference.

Brexit does not mean "pulling up the drawbridge", Mr Davis said.

"We will always welcome those with the skills, the drive and the expertise to make our nation better still. If we are to win in the global marketplace, we must win the global battle for talent."

Voters who chose Brexit cited the pressure on jobs, schools and hospitals.

Net migration to Britain was a near-record 327,000 in the year through March, including 180,000 EU citizens, according to the most recent Office for National Statistics data.

"The clear message from the referendum is this: We must be able to control immigration," Mr Davis said.

"Let us be clear, we will control our own borders and we will bring the numbers down."

Mrs May said that her government must respond to the demands of voters, many of whom fear that hospitals and schools are being stretched by high levels of migration from the EU, but also had to listen to business.

"I know some people ask about the 'trade-off' between controlling immigration and trading with Europe. But that is the wrong way of looking at things," she said.

Underlining her point, Trade Minister and close ally Liam Fox - one of three leading Brexit campaigners in her Cabinet - told an event at the conference: "What we want is the best exit for the United Kingdom, not the quickest."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'May's Brexit timeline brings clarity: EU president'. Print Edition | Subscribe