Vidya Ram

Britain formally triggers departure from EU

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 27, 2018

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in Parliament as she announces that she has sent the letter to trigger the process of leaving the European Union   -  Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet office signs the official letter to European Council President Donald Tusk invoking Article 50 and the United Kingdom's intention to leave the EU on March 28, 2017 in London, England. After holding a referendum in June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the signing of Article 50 now officially triggers that process. Photo: Reuters

Starts two-year negotiations; there is no turning back, says British PM Theresa May

In what may be one of the most significant moments in modern British and European history, Britain has formally triggered its departure from the EU, commencing two years of negotiations with its European partners, on what has been a deeply divisive issue for the nation.

The six-page letter, signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May late on Tuesday, was handed over by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s current permanent representative, to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels at around 13.20 local time.

“After nine months the UK has delivered,” tweeted Tusk, just minutes after. The handover will propel both Britain and the European Union into new territory, as the country becomes the first nation in history to trigger Article 50, the six-paragraph-long section of the Lisbon Treaty, briefly outlining the process for exiting the union.

“The UK is now leaving the European Union…there is no turning back,” said May, in the House of Commons just after the handover.

She struck a conciliatory note, reiterating a point made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this week, that Britain was aware that it would not be able to “cherry pick.” As a result of immigration being one of the concerns of those who voted to leave, Britain would prioritise ending freedom of movement, rather than retaining membership of the single market and the customs union, which provides for the tariff free movement of goods and services within the union.

“There will be consequences,” she said. “I have been clear that we will work constructively — in a spirit of sincere cooperation — to bring this partnership into being,” she told MPs, reiterating that she fully anticipated reaching an agreement on the terms of the future partnership alongside the withdrawal within the next two years.

Britain will also withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community. A white paper on Brexit-related legislation will be published on Thursday.

“There is nothing to win in this process and I am talking about both sides. In essence, this is about damage control,” said Tusk, adding: “We already miss you.”

Published on March 29, 2017

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