Prime Minister Theresa May Says The U.K. To Begin EU Departure By March 2017

Oct 2, 2016

Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, says she intends to begin the formal process of leaving the European Union by March 2017.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, May said she would seek to begin the 2-year negotiation process required to leave the EU in "the first quarter of 2017".

The BBC's Rob Watson reports for NPR's newscast unit:

"It feels like a big moment. We now know Theresa May wants Britain to have left the EU by around April 2019.

"What's still somewhat less clear is what post-Brexit Britain will look like. Mrs. May told the BBC she wanted the right deal for British business in terms of trade in goods and services, but she also said the referendum showed the British people wanted control of the free movement of people from the EU So, the starting gun has effectively been fired in what Mrs. May herself described as the complex process of Britain's EU departure."

As NPR has reported, the first step toward leaving the EU is for the U.K. to formally notify the European Union of its decision to leave. This is done by invoking a provision known as Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It's up to the prime minister to pull the trigger on Article 50 — which is what May has said she will do in early 2017.

(If you want to know a lot more about all the steps that need to happen for Britain to leave the EU, NPR's Jackie Northam has you covered.)

May also announced what she called a "great repeal bill" that will be introduced in parliament next year, and will remove the blanket European Communities Act from British law, and instead enshrine individual EU laws that Britain intends to keep.

In the interview Sunday with the BBC, May said the bill, which would take effect when the two-year exit process from the EU is complete, "means the UK will be an independent sovereign nation, it will be making its own laws."

Both May and the U.K.'s "Brexit" secretary, David Davis, are expected to address the bill and the exit timeline at the annual meeting of Britain's Conservative Party, which begins today.

Anna Soubry, a spokesperson for the Open Britain campaign against leaving the EU, told the U.K.'s ITV news May's timeline "concerns me greatly, we won't have had the French elections or the German elections," reports The Guardian. On Twitter, Tim Farron, the leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, accused May's government of failing to give the public enough details about the exit plan. "We can't start the process without any idea of where we're going," he tweeted Sunday.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Brexit has a date. British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC her government will trigger the formal process for leaving the European Union by the end of this coming March. According to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Britain will then have two years to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal with the remaining European Union members, meaning the U.K. will likely be out of the EU by the spring of 2019. Here's May talking to the BBC about the upcoming negotiation process.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: I hope, and I'll be saying to them, that now that they know what our timing is going to be - it's not an exact date, but they know it'll be in the first quarter of next year - that we'll be able to have some prepatory work so that once the trigger comes we have a smoother process of negotiation.

MARTIN: Fifty-two percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union in June. Theresa May took over as prime minister after David Cameron resigned following that vote. This announcement marks her first firm plan to move Brexit forward since taking office in July. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.