Article 50 will be triggered on 29 March
Daryl Jackson, News Editor
20 Mar 2017, 4:32 p.m.
The UK could be out of the European Union by March 2019 after it was announced the Prime Minister will trigger article 50 - the formal process of beginning to leave the union - on Wednesday next week.
Two years of negotiations will then begin between EU member states and the UK. It comes nine months after the UK voted to leave the union following the referendum in June with a 52% - 48% majority.
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis said:
"Last June, the people of the UK made the historic decision to leave the EU. Next Wednesday, the Government will deliver on that decision and formally start the process by triggering Article 50".
"We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation.
The Government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union".
As soon as the announcement was made the European Council President, Donald Tusk, tweeted to say:
"Within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft Brexit guidelines to the EU27 Member States".
Working out the terms of the divorce will not be straight forward. Issues to be resolved include trade deals, immigration, the rights of EU and UK citizens living abroad and co-operation on things such as crime and terrorism.
However, before any of this can happen there is the withdrawal agreement to be settled from Brussels which could cost the UK about £50bn. Britain will try and negotiate that figure down, by working out what the UK owes for its share of liabilities. Meanwhile, the other 27 member states will work to agree a unified negotiating position. That could take up to a month and could form the official withdrawal guidelines.
There are some that have said the time allocated to leave the EU will take longer than the two year timetable announced by David Davis. The Maltese Prime Minster said he expects it to take "way longer" than two years.