On 28 March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter dated 29 March officially notifying the President of the European Council of Britain’s intention to leave the European Union. The letter will be delivered on 29 March, beginning two years of talks on the terms of withdrawal allowed under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union (the Lisbon treaty). The two year period may be extended if the EU and UK mutually agree to do so. Until the actual withdrawal, the UK will remain in the EU and all EU laws will remain in effect and UK citizens will have all rights and responsibilities of EU citizens. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, Mrs. May also notified the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community.
The letter sets out the UK’s approach to the exit discussions. The letter states that the UK will repeal the European Communities Act of 1972, but convert the body of existing EU law into UK law when the UK exits the EU, thereby providing certainty. The letters sets forth proposed principles for the discussions.
i. We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation.
ii. We should always put our citizens first.
iii. We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement.
iv. We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible.
v. In particular, we must pay attention to the UK’s unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
vi. We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges.
vii. We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values.
The letter proposes
…a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union. This should be of greater scope and ambition than any such agreement before it so that it covers sectors crucial to our linked economies such as financial services and network industries. This will require detailed technical talks, but as the UK is an existing EU member state, both sides have regulatory frameworks and standards that already match.
The letter also recognizes that the UK will suffer consequences from its withdrawal and that UK companies doing business in the EU will have to align with rules agreed to by institutions of which the UK is no longer a part.