Officials announced on Monday, 20 March that UK Prime Minister Theresa May is to officially notify the European Union (EU) on 29 march that the UK is leaving the bloc.
Downing Street announced last week that the prime minister would write a letter to the European Council, adding that it hoped negotiations on the terms of exit and future relations could begin as quickly as possible. A No 10 spokesman disclosed that the UKs Ambassador to the EU, Sir Time Barrow, had informed the European Council, which is headed by President Donald Tusk, earlier on Monday of the date that Article 50 would be triggered. In response to the news, Mr Tusk tweeted within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft Brexit guidelines to the EU 27 Member states. This will set out Britains demands for talks.
Mr Tusk has previously sated that he expects to call an extraordinary summit of the 27 other members within four to six weeks, in order to draw up a mandate for the European Commissions chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. It is likely that a summit will not be held until early May. Preparations may be slowed by holidays around Easter on 16 April and on 1 May. Brussels also wants to avoid clashing with the two-round French presidential election on 23 April and 7 May. Officials have indicated that they would prefer to hold the summit before French President Francois Hollande steps down around mid-May.
Under the Article 50 process, talks on the terms of exit and future relations are not allowed until the UK formally tells the EU that it is leaving. If all goes according to the two-year negotiations allowed for in the official timetable, Brexit should happen in March 2019. EU leaders have said that they want to conclude the talks within eighteen months in order to allow the terms of the UKs exit to be ratified by the UK Parliament and the European Parliament, as well as approved by the necessary majority of EU states.
Mrs May has disclosed that MPs and peers will have a vote on the deal that she negotiates, noting however that the UK will leave anyway even if Parliament rejects it. The government has said that it expects to secure a positive outcome, warning however that there is a chance of there being no formal agreement.
Meanwhile Mrs Mays spokesman also rejected reports that an early election may be held, stating its not going to happen.