British Prime Minister Theresa May today said she will formally trigger the process of the UK’s exit from the 28-nation EU by the end of March 2017, ending the speculation surrounding the timing of the important move.
May confirmed the deadline for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets in place a two-year process of withdrawal from the European Union or so-called Brexit, as the first quarter of next year.
She has also promised a “Great Repeal Bill” in the next Queen’s Speech, which sets parliamentary business for the year.
May named India among the countries keen on a free trade agreement with the UK post-Brexit.
Addressing the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, her first as Prime Minister, May highlighted the new role the UK can play outside the European Union.
“Countries including Canada, China, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea have already told us they would welcome talks on future free trade agreements. And we have already agreed to start scoping discussions on trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand,” she said.
While the Prime Minister had long hinted that she would start the Brexit process early next year, many observers had speculated that she would hold off until the French presidential elections, due to conclude in May.
It will repeal the act that took the UK into the forerunner of the European Union and remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the UK’s statute book after the British public had voted in favour of Brexit in a June 23 referendum.
“This is about delivering for the British people, and this is not just about leaving the European Union, it’s about that essential question of the trust people have in their politicians. The people have spoken, we will deliver on that,” May was quoted as saying by BBC.
When pressed, she did not give an exact date beyond saying “by the end of March” Article 50 will be triggered, but said it set the timetable “for the first quarter of 2017”.
“We’ll be starting the negotiations once we’ve triggered Article 50, but I think it’s important to get the right deal for the British people,” she said.
Theresa May said she believed it was important to have a deal in place with the EU, hinting that was preferable to a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ in which the UK leaves the economic bloc without a formal deal in place for a continued trading relationship.
“I think we do want to negotiate what the relationship will be. Things will be different in the future, once we leave the EU, we’ll be in a different position. We’ll be an independent country. Crucially, we still do want to have a good relationship with Europe and the European Union,” she said.
Describing the European Union referendum as “the biggest vote for change this country has ever known,” May said, “Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”