Britain to launch Brexit by April - May
Britain will trigger the formal process for leaving the European Union (EU) before April, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday, putting to rest weeks of speculation on the timing of the move.
May confirmed her plans in an interview with the BBC before a speech at her Conservative Party's annual conference in Birmingham.
While the prime minister previously had hinted she planned to initiate Britain's EU exit early next year, many observers had speculated she would wait until France's presidential election ends in May. Britain voted in a June referendum to leave the EU, but has not formally notified the bloc of its intentions by invoking the article of the EU treaty that would trigger negotiations. Doing so will launch two years of talks to work out the details of Britain's future relationship with the single market.
While the two-year timetable is mandated by the EU treaty, it can be extended by a unanimous vote of the remaining members of the bloc.
May also said she would ask Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act, which automatically makes EU rules the law of the land in Britain. May said her government, instead, would incorporate all EU laws into British law and then repeal measures as necessary on a case-by-case basis.
"That means that the United Kingdom will be an independent, sovereign nation," she said. "It will be making its own laws."
May said that by offering a timetable now, she hopes to encourage the two sides to engage in preliminary work that would help the negotiations go smoothly once they begin. EU leaders so far have rejected any such discussions.
The president of the 28-nation EU's governing European Council, Donald Tusk, offered a tweet in support of her position. He had told her at a recent Downing Street meeting that the "ball is now in your court".
"PM May's declaration brings welcome clarity on start of Brexit talks," he tweeted Sunday. "Once Art 50's triggered, EU27 will engage to safeguard its interests."