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.
May said Sunday that Britain would begin the two-year process set out in Article 50 of the E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty in the first quarter of next year. Parliament will be asked to pass a “Great Repeal Bill,” that will remove E.U. statutes from Britain’s laws.
Triggering Article 50 will allow British and E.U. officials to begin talks on what the U.K.’s relationship will be with the remaining 27 members of the political and economic bloc. In a speech to her Conservative Party members at its annual conference, May effectively laid out her government’s opening position in the negotiations to come.
While E.U. leaders have said Britain must accept the free movement of E.U. citizens in order to maintain economic ties with its members, May insisted on Sunday that Britain would regain full control of its borders and forge new, independent trade agreements outside of the E.U.’s single market.
“I know some people ask about the “trade-off” between controlling immigration and trading with Europe. But that is the wrong way of looking at things,” she said. “We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.”
“Make no mistake,” she added. “This is going to be a deal that works for Britain.”
British voters elected to leave the E.U. – 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.
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, however, said Sunday that the government’s decision to delay triggering Article 50 had given a measure of stability to Britain’s investors. “There is still some uncertainty, but the sky has not fallen in, as some predicted it would: our economy remains strong.”
Nevertheless, the pound fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar in early trading Monday as investors digested news of the impending split. Triggering Article 50 will mean the U.K. will no longer be a part of the E.U. from April 2019.