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Theresa May says she will trigger Brexit next Wednesday

21 March 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed for months that the country will trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

Formal talks between Britain and the EU must then wait for member states to approve more detailed negotiating rules and give an official mandate to European Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, officials said.

May's government said her permanent envoy to the EU had informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the date when Britain intends to invoke Article 50 of its Lisbon Treaty - the mechanism for starting its exit after a referendum last June in which Britons voted by a 52-48 percent margin to leave the bloc.

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Article 50, which has never been used before, is quite simple and only consists of five short paragraphs.

The notification of Article 50 will take the form of a letter to Tusk, followed by a statement by May to MPs in the House of Commons.

A special summit had been pencilled in for April 6 but Britain's timetable means this has now been pushed back to late April or early May, a European source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Basically, it gives the United Kingdom two years to negotiate a "withdrawal agreement" with the 27 remaining member states of the EU.

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May will invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, launching two years of negotiations on the terms of divorce and future relations with the remaining 27 European Union nations.

"Everything is ready on this side", commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

Downing Street expects that in the immediate aftermath of triggering Article 50, the remaining 27 European Union member states will agree terms and give an initial response within 48 hours.

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May's decision to withdraw Britain from Europe's single market has also provoked concern in Northern Ireland, by raising the prospect of the return of customs posts with European Union member Ireland to the south.

Theresa May says she will trigger Brexit next Wednesday