Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Brexit latest: Theresa May to trigger Article 50 on March 29

Brexit latest: Theresa May to trigger Article 50 on March 29

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said he will issue draft Brexit negotiating guidelines to the other member states within 48 hours of the United Kingdom triggering article 50; in other words, before the end of next week.

Theresa May is carrying out talks in the devolved nations ahead of her promise to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said triggering Article 50 would initiate "the most important negotiation for this country for a generation".

A Government spokesman said: "This Government will harness the skills and resources across all departments to ensure that the statute book functions effectively on the day we leave - as part of delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit".

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

The European Commission said immediately that it was ready to begin negotiations, although a source in Brussels said it would take "four to six weeks" to arrange a summit to agree a common EU position.

It comes nine months after the country voted to leave in the 23 June referendum.

But such negotiations will be complex and the two-year deadline might not be enough.

London has repeatedly said it wants to maintain good relations with its European allies, but major battles await, in particular over budget contributions, immigration and future trade ties.

The official notification will declare that negotiations should begin as soon as possible, May's spokesman said.

"I have set out my objectives".

March 29-31 - Within 48 hours, Tusk sends to the 27 other member states his draft negotiating guidelines.

After almost a year of phoney war since the June 23 referendum vote to quit, British negotiators led by Brexit Secretary David Davis will sit down with the European Union, possibly still in May.

The move will pave the way for two years of negotiations, with the country expected to be out of the bloc by the end of March 2019.

May has said she wants to make Brexit as painless as possible.

"It is also extraordinary that the prime minister has failed to provide any certainty about her plans for Brexit or to prepare for the clear dangers of not reaching a deal with the EU".

Key issues: the exit bill for Britain's outstanding commitments; treatment of British and European Union expats; dealing with outstanding European Union legal cases; new border rules.

Britain leaving the European Union in March 2019 will see the end of a 46 year old membership.

As a result, United Kingdom officials have already approached the World Trade Organization to see what they can do in case they cannot reach a deal within the two-year deadline.

She acknowledges this will mean leaving Europe's single market, of which freedom of movement is a key principle, and likely also the customs union.

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