Forty-four years after Britain joined the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin the formal process of Brexit.
Today, Britain took the first steps on a two year journey that means Britain should officially leave the EU no later than April 2019. At 12.20 BST Sir Tim Barrow, UK ambassador to Brussels, handed over six page letter / document to the European Council’s president Donald Tusk.
The Treaties that govern membership no longer apply to Britain as the terms of Brexit are set to be negotiated between the 27 member countries.
The UK’s referendum of whether to stay or go took place on Thursday 23rd June last year, where 71.8% – more than 30 million people – turned out to vote, resulting in a win for the leave vote by 51.9% to 48.1%.
The government will also enact a Great Repeal Bill which will end the primacy of EU law in the UK. This Great Repeal Bill is expected to incorporate all EU legislation into UK law in one lump, after which the government will decide over a period of time which parts to keep, change or remove.
Brussels will now turn to the intricacies of whether over the next two years will deliver a hard or a soft Brexit.
“This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union.
“In moments like these, great turning points in our national story, the choices we make define the character of our nation.
“We can look forwards with optimism of spirit or backwards”.
The European council president confirmed he had received Britain’s letter announcing its intention to quit the EU in a tweet: “After nine months, the UK has delivered.”