Prime Minister Theresa May signed on March 28 the historic letter that will launch Brexit when it is delivered to Brussels on Wednesday the 29th, a photo released by her office showed. Sitting in front of a lone Union Jack national flag and a portrait of Britain’s first prime minister, Robert Walpole, a serene-looking May signed the letter to begin the country’s departure from the European Union.
The letter will be taken from 10 Downing Street to Brussels, where it will be delivered by Tim Barrow, Britain’s EU ambassador, to EU President Donald Tusk around 1130 GMT (7:30 pm HK time) on Wednesday.
Formally notifying Tusk of Britain’s intention to leave the bloc, by triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, sets the clock ticking on a two-year negotiating period to end the UK’s 44 years of membership.
On the eve of launching Brexit, May on Tuesday evening made separate phone calls to Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“They agreed that a strong EU was in everyone’s interests and that the UK would remain a close and committed ally,” Downing Street said.
“They also agreed on the importance of entering into negotiations in a constructive and positive spirit, and of ensuring a smooth and orderly exit process.”
As Britain begins its break with the bloc on Wednesday, May will address parliament and promise to represent everyone in the UK -- including EU citizens -- in the negotiations with Brussels.
She will express hope “that we are no longer defined by the vote we cast, but by our determination to make a success of the result”.
“We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” the prime minister will say, according to her speech published in advance by Downing Street.
Britain voted by 52% to leave the European Union in a referendum on 23 June 2016.
The agenda ahead:
29 March, 2017 - UK triggers Article 50
29 April - EU summit of the 27 leaders (without the UK) to agree to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with the UK
May - European Commission to publish negotiating guidelines based on the mandate the EU leaders give it. The EU might say something about possible parallel negotiation on a future EU-UK trade deal
May/June 2017 - Negotiations begin
23 April and 7 May - French presidential elections
24 September - German parliamentary elections
Autumn 2017 - The UK government is expected to introduce legislation to leave the EU and put all existing EU laws into British law - the Great Repeal Bill
October 2018 - Aim to complete negotiations
Between October 2018 and March 2019 - The Houses of Parliament, European Council and European Parliament vote on any deal
March 2019 - UK formally withdraws from the European Union (The Article 50 negotiations could be extended, but this is subject to the approval of the other 27 EU member states)