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Britain to formally launch Brexit process on March 29

British Prime Minister Theresa has said she wants to leave the European single market in order to be able to control immigration. (AFP)

LONDON: Britain said Monday it will trigger its exit from the European Union on March 29, nine months after the country voted to leave the European Union.

Triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure for leaving the bloc, will open a two-year timetable for difficult negotiations, meaning Britain could be out of the EU by 2019.
“The UK’s permanent representative to the EU informed the office of (European Union President) Donald Tusk that it’s the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 on March 29,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said.
The spokesman said May would notify Tusk in writing and then give a speech to the British parliament.
“We want negotiations to start promptly,” he said.
Britain voted in a June referendum by a 52 percent majority to leave the EU — the first member state ever to do so.
Monday’s announcement comes just days before the European Union celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which created the bloc.
The European Commission, whose chief negotiator Michel Barnier will spearhead the talks with London on behalf of the other 27 member states, said it was ready for the Brexit process.
“Everything is ready on this side,” said Margaritis Schinas, the spokesman for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
“We are ready to begin negotiations,” he said.
David Davis, Britain’s Brexit minister, said in a statement that Britons had approved a “historic decision” to leave the EU after four decades of membership.
“Next Wednesday, the government will deliver on that decision and formally start the process by triggering Article 50,” he said.
“We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation.”
May has said she wants to leave the European single market in order to be able to control immigration.
The British government has insisted the Brexit process is irreversible once Article 50 is triggered, although experts have said there is no legal ban on member states changing their minds before they have actually left the European Union.
May’s preparations for Brexit have been hit by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement last week that she planned a new independence referendum in order to keep EU ties.
Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, which made major gains in regional elections earlier this month, has also called for a referendum on breaking off from the United Kingdom and uniting with the Republic of Ireland.
Of the United Kingdom’s four nations, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU in the June 23 vote while England and Wales voted to leave.
May on Monday began a tour of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland aimed at boosting support for Brexit.
The EU is fully prepared for Brexit negotiations, the European Commission said.
“Everything is ready on this side,” Margaritis Schinas, the spokesman for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, told a briefing.
“Yes we have been informed in advance. We are ready to begin negotiations. We are waiting for the letter. Now we know it will come on the 29th.”
EU President Donald Tusk tweeted that “within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft #Brexit guidelines to the EU27 Member States.”
However, the actual start of talks between Britain and the EU is not likely for another six to eight weeks, EU sources said.
Leaders of the remaining EU 27 states must first hold a summit to approve the guidelines. Officials say that is now likely to be held in early May.
Also on Monday, May’s spokesman said her government has no plans to hold an early general election.
British bookmaker odds earlier indicated a 17 percent probability that May would call a snap general election after media speculation she could go to the polls.
“As the rumor mill continues to head into overdrive, the firm have reacted by chalking up a snap election in early May at 5/1, whilst it’s just 2/1 one is called before the end of the year,” Ladbrokes said in a statement.
Schinas said that the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, will then issue a formal recommendation to open Brexit negotiations shortly after the summit.
That will later be adopted by the 27 member states without Britain, which will give Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier a mandate to actually begin talks.
May has made it clear to her colleagues that she does not favor an early election, because she thinks it would be self-serving and create added uncertainty at a time when the country needs stability, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported recently