Britain’s Theresa May Finally Sets Out Timetable for Brexit

October 2, 2016, 12:57 PM UTC
Theresa May Remains The Favourite To Become Conservative Party Leader
Photograph by Jack Taylor—Getty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said the United Kingdom will formally begin the process of departure from the European Union before April 2017, finally setting out a timetable for the process after months of uncertainty.

In an interview with the BBC on the morning her Conservative Party meets for its annual conference, May said Britain would begin the two-year process set out in Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in the first quarter of next year. Parliament will be asked to pass a “Great Repeal Bill,” that will remove EU statutes from Britain’s laws.

Triggering Article 50 will allow British and EU negotiations to begin talks on what the UK’s relationship will be with the remaining 27 members of the political and economic bloc. EU leaders have said Britain must accept the free movement of EU citizens in order to maintain economic ties with its members. But pro-Brexit politicians in the U.K. insist the country must be able to control its borders, even if it means giving up access to the EU’s single market.

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“I hope that now [other EU members] know what our timing will be … we’ll be able to have some preparatory work to have a smoother process for negotiation,” she said. “It’s important for the UK and Europe as a whole to do this in the best possible way so there is a smooth transition away from the EU.”

British voters elected to leave the EU—nicknamed ‘Brexit’—in a national referendum held on June 23, turning the political order in Westminster upside down and causing temporary havoc in international markets. Then-Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down, setting in motion a leadership contest won by May after her rivals dropped out. Under what terms the country would leave the 28-nation bloc have been an open question ever since.

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The British economy has so far shown few signs of Brexit’s impact, defying the gloomy predictions of Cameron, his finance minister George Osborne and Mark Carney, head of the Bank of England. But that may change as the realities of Brexit become clearer.

May will speak further on Brexit to Conservative Party members in a speech later Sunday, alongside her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

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