Theresa May will write to the EU to formally announce the withdrawal of the block.
There is already a date for the official start of the Brexit negotiations. Theresa May will activate Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon on Wednesday 29 March. The British ambassador to the European Union, Tim Barrow, has been announced today by a spokeswoman for the British prime minister.
That will be the day when London – nine months after the British voted for Brexit (51.9% against 48.1%) – will communicate by letter to the European Council their intention to leave the EU, as provided in Article 50 «Theresa May would thus maximize the deadline by which she undertook to start the process – she always said she would do it» before the end of March «- and avoid matching it with the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Treaty of Rome on 25 of this month. The prime minister, who is now on a trip to Wales, could use that same Wednesday her weekly appearance in the House of Commons, in the question session to the Prime Minister, to inform Parliament of the activation of the process, as Committed to do.
Initially, although the Government had never explicitly confirmed this, it was envisaged that the activation of Article 50 would take place on Tuesday of last week, once the mandatory parliamentary procedure of the Brexit bill had been passed. But soon the Executive ruled out that possibility, perhaps deterred by the announcement of nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to hold a new referendum on independence in Scotland before spring 2019.
Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, in force since 1 December 2009, provides for the first time the possibility for a Member State to decide voluntarily to leave the European Union. The procedure, however, is not detailed in the 260 words of the precept.
It does set a deadline of two years to reach an agreement, although it opens the possibility of an extension. «The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State concerned from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification (…), unless the European Council agrees With that State, it unanimously decides to extend said period «, the article says.
A letter is formally required in which «the Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify its intention to the European Council». It is unclear whether there will be a physical delivery – in which case Tim Barrow himself would be the right person – or a mere email notification. The letter will be signed by Theresa May and it is likely that the intention of the British Government is reiterated that both the terms of the departure and the new relationship are agreed, in parallel, within two years.
Once the intention to leave has been notified by letter, it is for the European Council to act. Its chairman, Donald Tusk, said he would be ready to respond within 48 hours of notification, with «guidelines» for negotiation that are not expected to be very detailed. In its response, Tusk is expected to set the date for an extraordinary summit of the other 27 member states to complete these negotiating directives. From now on, in accordance with Article 50, «a member of the European Council and of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the deliberations or decisions of the European Council or of the Council which concern him» .