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Brexit roundup: UK fires starting gun as May outlines aims for talks

By Frank Prenesti

Date: Wednesday 29 Mar 2017

Brexit roundup: UK fires starting gun as May outlines aims for talks

(ShareCast News) - Britain formally fired the starting gun on Brexit as European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed he had received formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the European Union.
Tusk received a letter, which invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, on behalf of UK Prime Minister Theresa May from Britain's EU representative Sir Tim Barrow. The two parties now have a mere two years to sweep aside four decades of at times fractious partnership and create an entirely new social and economic relationship.

"We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow. For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for the negotiations by the European Council," the council said in a statement.

"In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimise the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and Member States. Therefore, we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal."

In London, Prime Minister Theresa May addressed parliament, telling MPs the start of the process was a "historic moment from which there can be no turning back".

With no trace of irony, May said: "Perhaps now more than ever the world need the liberal democratic values of Europe." She also appeared to warn the EU against playing hardball over talks by pairing economic talks with those on security matters.

"Europe's security is more fragile today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Weakening our co-operation for the prosperity and protection of our citizens would be a costly mistake," May said in her letter to Tusk.

May said the government would publish a white paper on Thursday outlining plans to transfer body of EU law, known as the acquis, into UK legislation.

"It is our aim to ensure a smooth and orderly Brexit," she said, adding that she acknowledged there would be consequences of leaving the bloc's enormous single market.

She also put herself on a collision course with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier by demanding that Britain's exit and a new trade deal be completed in parallel within the two year timeframe.

Barnier has insisted that a new agreement on trade can only begin once Britain is formally out of the union.

May added that rights of EU citizens in Britain, and those of Britons in Europe would be an early priority in any talks.

"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," she said.

"And yes, those EU nationals who have made this country their home. It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country."

Yet, even before the letter was delivered a leaked document from the European Parliament revealed Britain would not be given a free trade deal by the EU in the next two years, and a transition arrangement to cushion the UK's exit after 2019 would only be valid for up to three years.

The document, seen by the Guardian newspaper, said the European court of justice will be responsible for settling any legal challenges during the transition period.

It added that the UK would be able to revoke its notification of article 50 but this must be "subject to conditions set by all EU27 so they cannot be used as a procedural device or abused in an attempt to improve the actual terms of the United Kingdom's membership".

If Britain tried to negotiate any free trade deals with other countries while still an EU member "there will be no future discussion of a deal with the union", the document warned.

Crucially it stated that there would be no special deal for the City of London "providing UK-based undertakings preferential access to the single market and, or the customs union".

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