Prime Minister Theresa May will file formal Brexit divorce papers on Wednesday, triggering years of uncertain negotiations that will test the endurance of the European Union, Reuters reports.
Nine months after Britons voted to leave, May will notify EU Council President Donald Tusk in a letter that the UK is quitting the bloc it joined in 1973.
May, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the political turmoil that followed the referendum vote, will then have two years to settle the terms of the divorce before it comes into effect in late March 2019.
“Now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” May will tell lawmakers, according to comments supplied by her office.
“When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the whole United Kingdom – young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country and all the villages and hamlets in between,” May will say.
On the eve of Brexit, May, 60, has one of the toughest jobs of any recent British prime minister: holding Britain together in the face of renewed Scottish independence demands, while conducting arduous talks with 27 other EU states on finance, trade, security and a host of other complex issues.
The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s US$2.6 trillion economy, the world’s fifth biggest, and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centers.
For the EU, already reeling from successive crises over debt and refugees, the loss of Britain is the biggest blow yet to 60 years of efforts to forge European unity in the wake of two devastating world wars.
Its leaders say they do not want to punish Britain. But with nationalist, anti-EU parties on the rise across the bloc, they cannot afford to give London generous terms that might encourage other member states to follow its example and break away.
May’s notice of the UK’s intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty is due to be hand-delivered to Tusk in Brussels by Tim Barrow, Britain’s permanent representative to the EU.
May, who on Tuesday signed the Brexit letter and spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the future talks, will update the British parliament on Wednesday while Tusk is due to give a briefing to reporters.
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