On March 28, 2017, UK Prime Minister Theresa May signed letters triggering Article 50. The documents are to be delivered to the European Union today. The letter officially initiates the process by which the UK will exit the EU. BBC News reported that an EU spokesman said it was “ready and waiting” for the letter.
BBC News quoted a No 10 spokesman who said the UK’s Ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, informed the European Council, headed by President Donald Tusk, earlier on Monday of the date that Article 50 would be triggered.
Reuters reported the EU is preparing to respond to May’s notification with a resolution which will stress “the revocability of Article 50.” This would contradict Prime Minister May’s position that “the process cannot be halted.”
In June 2016, the UK held a “Brexit” referendum on whether to remain in the EU or leave and withdraw from the union. Voters for Leave won, gaining a margin of 51.89 % vs 49.1%. The vote also showed a high level of eligible voter turnout at 72 %.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty pertains to circumstances in which members states of the EU may leave the Union.
May’s notification to Brussels sets in motion a “period of… negotiations with 27 EU member states,”a process which may take up to two years to finalize. This means that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would be set for completion by no later than March 29, 2019. Subjects to be resolved over the next two years extend beyond simply the UK’s exit of the Union. According to BBC News, negotiations will include trade issues resulting from Brexit, as well determining the extent of the UK’s debt upon withdrawal.
The move to leave the Union has caused deep divisions in the UK and garnered critical response from Europe. Former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned in the wake of voter results, having campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU. The BBC reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “great regret” at the outcome.
Although three territories have previously withdrawn from the EU, there is no precedent for a member state’s exit. Vague wording of the Lisbon treaty in regards to article 50 has also become a topic for heated debate since the referendum took place last year. Brexit will have significant implications for the UK at home as well as for relationships abroad. Two departments have been created from scratch to prepare for future negotiations.
Additionally, BBC stated Prime Minister May will not be attending a gathering of EU leaders in Rome, celebrating “the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which established the European Economic Community – the initial forerunner to the EU.”