UK Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that Britain will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by “the first quarter of 2017“. Triggering Article 50 will start a two-year countdown within which time the UK must agree the terms of its withdrawal deal with the EU-27.
This means that the UK looks set to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019.
Speaking to the BBC on 2 October 2016, the Prime Minister said that the process of leaving the EU would be “quite complex“, but added that, until March, the government will undertake “preparatory work” with the remaining EU members so that “once the trigger comes we will have a smoother process of negotiation“.
May also said that she intends to ensure “the least disruption for businesses” and hopes for a “smooth transition away from the EU“.
The Prime Minister appears to be steering the country towards a “hard Brexit”, noting that the result of the referendum in June had been a “clear message from the British people that they want us to control movement of people coming into the UK“.
In a speech later on 2 October, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, May gave details of a Great Repeal Bill which will overturn the European Communities Act 1972 (“ECA”), which took the UK into what was then the European Economic Community.
Repeal of the ECA will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, and will end the primacy of EU law in the UK. EU law is expected to be largely transposed into domestic law, which will enable Parliament to keep, amend, or overturn EU legislation according to the outcome of the UK’s exit from the EU.
The Great Repeal Bill will not become effective until the UK leaves the EU under the Article 50 process (i.e. two years after Article 50 is triggered, unless extended by unanimous decision of the EU Member States).
The Great Repeal Bill will have to be passed through the House of Lords, in which the Conservatives are in the minority, leading to speculation that Parliament may attempt to defeat exit plans.