Britain will trigger the formal divorce process from the European Union by the end of March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May says.
When asked when she would invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, May told the BBC: “We will trigger before the end of March next year.”
She then confirmed the timing in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference, saying while some certainty was needed for business and investors, she didn’t want the process to drag on.
“Having voted to leave, I know that the public will soon expect to see, on the horizon, the point at which Britain does formally leave the European Union. So let me be absolutely clear. There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article Fifty. We will invoke it when we are ready. And we will be ready soon,” she told the conference.
The process can be extended beyond two years if Britain and all other EU countries unanimously agree, but that prospect is seen as unlikely.
She made the announcement after revealing plans for a “Great Repeal Bill” to transpose all EU law applying to the UK into domestic law, ready for the day the country leaves the union.
“This historic Bill – which will be included in the next Queen’s Speech – will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which we formally leave the European Union.
“And its effect will be clear. Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority of EU law in Britain will end.”
Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain will trigger the formal divorce process from the European Union by the end of March 2017. Photo: PA
Ahead of her speech in Birmingham, May told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show the British government was talking to businesses to find out what sort of deal they want from the country’s exit negotiations with the EU.
“I want the right deal for trade in goods and services,” she said when asked how important it was for British business to have tariff free access to the EU single market.
“What we are doing at the moment, what (Brexit Minister) David Davis and his department are doing, is listening to businesses here in the UK, listening to different sectors, finding out what it is that is most important to them.”