Theresa May lays out Brexit timetable for leaving the European Union
The PM says the UK will quit the EU “whether people like it or not” and there will be “no unnecessary delays” in negotiations.
Theresa May has said she will trigger the formal process for the UK to leave the European Union by the end of March 2017.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister declared there would be “no unnecessary delays” in beginning negotiations to leave.
The announcement about when she will invoke Article 50 means the UK’s membership of the 28-nation bloc is likely to end by March 2019.
In her speech, Mrs May said: “Having voted to leave, I know that the public will soon expect to see on the horizon the point at which Britain does formally leave the European Union.
“So let me be absolutely clear that there will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article 50. We will invoke it no later than the end of March next year.”
European Council President Donald Tusk said Mrs May’s announcement brought “welcome clarity” but in a veiled warning said once it had been triggered, the remaining 27 member states “will engage to safeguard its interests”.
Mrs May admitted that the talks “will require some give and take” but added: “Make no mistake, this is going to be a deal that works for Britain.”
She said the UK would quit the EU because the country voted to leave “whether people like it or not”.
And she dismissed arguments by some Brexit opponents that the outcome of Article 50 negotiations should be put to a second referendum, saying: “Come on!
“The referendum vote was clear, it was legitimate, it was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known. Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.”
She told supporters: “We’re going to be a fully independent sovereign country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.
“And that means we’re going once more to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from the way we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.”
She added: “It’s not going to be a Norway or Switzerland model, it’s going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union.”
Mrs May earlier revealed plans for a “Great Repeal Bill” to bring EU law into domestic law on the day the UK leaves the union.
The law would then be kept, ditched or changed by MPs on a case by case basis.
She told supporters the bill would scrap the legislation that took Britain into Europe 44 years ago and end the supremacy of EU law.
Mrs May said: “By converting it into British law, we will give businesses and workers maximum certainty as we leave the European Union. The same rules and laws will apply to them after Brexit as they did before.
“Let me be absolutely clear, existing workers legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister.”
Meanwhile, Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith has indicated Article 50 could be triggered before the March deadline.
The former Cabinet minister told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme there was “every chance” it could happen earlier.
His comments were bolstered by Sky’s Political Editor Faisal Islam, who understands that Whitehall departments are working to a deadline that would allow Article 50 to be triggered as early as 15 January.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has said the Government will “take a simple approach” over changes to legislation.
He said: “EU law will be transposed into domestic law, wherever practical, on exit day. It will be for elected politicians here to make the changes to reflect the outcome of our negotiation and our exit.”
However, some Conservatives have expressed concerns.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said: “The key issue is that this proposal, if adopted, will not provide a solution for long, as divergence between our law and EU law will begin immediately.
“This will not provide reassurance to business wanting a level playing field with the EU. It is not clear if we would mirror EU law thereafter.”