British Prime Minister Theresa May will file formal Brexit divorce papers on Wednesday, nine months after Britons narrowly voted to leave the European Union.
She signed the Brexit letter today and spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the future talks.
The letter will be hand-delivered on Wednesday to EU Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels by Tim Barrow, Britain’s permanent representative to the EU.
The letter will formally signal the beginning of Britain’s exit from the bloc it joined in 1973.
On the same Wednesday, she will update the British parliament while Tusk will give a briefing to reporters.
Within 48 hours of reading the letter, Tusk will send the 27 other states draft negotiating guidelines. He will outline his views in Malta, where from Wednesday he will be attending a congress of centre-right leaders. Ambassadors of the 27 will then meet in Brussels to discuss Tusk’s draft.
The Brexit letter will seek to set a positive tone for the talks and recap 12 key points which May set out as her goals in a speech on Jan. 17.
The prime minister, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the political turmoil that followed the referendum vote, will then have two years to settle the terms of the divorce before it comes into effect in late March 2019.
“Now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” May will tell lawmakers, according to comments supplied by her office.
“When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the whole United Kingdom – young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country and all the villages and hamlets in between,” May will say.
On the eve of Brexit, May, 60, has one of the toughest jobs of any recent British prime minister: holding Britain together in the face of renewed Scottish independence demands, while conducting arduous talks with 27 other EU states on finance, trade, security and a host of other complex issues.
The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s $2.6 trillion economy, the world’s fifth biggest, and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centers.
For the EU, already reeling from successive crises over debt and refugees, the loss of Britain is the biggest blow yet to 60 years of efforts to forge European unity in the wake of two devastating world wars.
Its leaders say they do not want to punish Britain. But with nationalist, anti-EU parties on the rise across the bloc, they cannot afford to give London generous terms that might encourage other member states to follow its example and break away.