Britain to trigger Article 50 on March 29

Britain to trigger Article 50 on March 29, formally launching Brexit process

British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 at the end of March, her office has announced. The move would then set off two years of formal negotiations on Britain leaving the European Union.

Prime Minister May will write a letter to the European Union on March 29 to formally announce Britain's withdrawal from the soon-to-be 27 member bloc, a spokesman for the British leader said on Monday.

Society | 18.03.2017

The UK informed European Council President Donald Tusk's office of May's intention, the spokesman added.

Triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will start the clock on two years of formal negotiations, at the end of which Britain will leave the EU. The British parliament backed May's Article 50 plan last week after 51.9 percent of participants voted for Brexit in a referendum last June.

"Next Wednesday, the government will deliver on that decision and formally start the process by triggering Article 50," Brexit Minister David Davis said in a statement.

"We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation."

EU is 'ready'

The European Commission said on Monday that it is prepared to begin Brexit negotiations after the British government confirmed the date it will launch the process.

"Everything is ready on this side," Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesman for the EU executive, told a regular news briefing.

On Twitter, Tusk said that he would present the other 27 member states with draft Brexit negotiating guidelines within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50.

Before negotiations with the UK can begin, the other EU member states must meet to confirm the Commission's negotiating guidelines. Officials say that a summit is likely to be held in early May.

Merkel: 'It makes no difference'

Monday's announcement comes just days before the EU celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which created the bloc.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected that the UK's announcement will overshadow a summit to mark the anniversary. 


Great Yarmouth

A view of "The Flamingo" amusement arcade in Great Yarmouth. 72% of people in this town on England's east coast voted to leave the European Union during the referendum in June 2016. The area has the third lowest percentage of university educated residents and among the highest number of working class voters.


East coast euroskeptic

The five most euroskeptic areas are all on Britain's east coast, including Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. One reason might be a rise in immigration, as well as a general decline in the standard of living, which has led to huge frustrations in these areas in recent years.


'Don't blame me'

A UKIP sticker in a car's rear window in Great Yarmouth. The seaside resort is situated some 140 miles (200 km) northeast of London.


Docklands in Hartlepool

The borough of Hartlepool voted to leave the European Union by 69.6%. There was a similar result in much of the Britain's northeast, including in cities such as Sunderland and Stanley.


Bleak scenery in Stanley, County Durham

A row of housing in Stanley, County Durham. The former colliery town is one of the cheapest places to buy a house in the UK. Durham voted to leave the European Union by 57.5%. In the whole northeast, Newcastle was the only borough to vote Remain, though by a narrow margin. This was most likely due to its large student population and dependency on EU funding.


Sunderland voted to leave the EU by 61.3%

The former Joplings Department Store stands derelict. Plans to convert the building into a designer hotel are currently underway. A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2016 named Sunderland one of the “most declining” cities in the UK. It also says that ten of the UK’s top 12 struggling cities are based in the north. No city in the south featured in the top 12, or even 24, of the index.


Sunderland’s urban landscape

A mural of local football hero, Raich Carter, embellishes the wall of the Blue Bell Pub in Hendon, his former area in Sunderland. Wearmouth Colliery, which was a major North Sea coal mine, was the largest mine in Sunderland. Also one of the most important mines in northeast England, it was closed at the end of 1993. The former mine is now the site of Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light.

She said "it makes absolutely no difference whether the notification comes one day earlier, or three or seven days afterward."

Merkel added that Europe's focus in the coming years will be to work on Brexit negotiations and "how we can strengthen the cooperation of the 27" other members.

Scottish resistance

May's preparations for Brexit were hit hard last week by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that she planned to hold a new independence referendum in order to maintain the country's ties to the EU.

On Sunday, Sturgeon said she was prepared to delay the vote to appease the government in London after initially pushing for the vote to take place in late 2018 or early 2019.

The nationalist party Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, which made major gains in regional elections earlier this month, has also called for a referendum on breaking away from the UK and uniting with the Republic of Ireland.

Out of the United Kingdom's four nations, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU while England and Wales voted to leave.

'Hard' Brexit concerns

In June, British citizens narrowly voted in favor of the UK leaving the EU. Ahead of the vote, the pro-Brexit movement campaigned on an anti-migrant platform.

Prime Minister May has said she will prioritize controlling immigration during the negotiations. Brussels, however, has warned that if the UK fails to provide freedom of movement, it will not have access to Europe's single market.

rs/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)


Waterways present Brexit conundrum

Mussel fishermen share many of the concerns about Britain's divorce from the European Union. They are also felt by many people who earn a living along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.


Fishermen are worried

Many fishermen have an additional headache on top of the prospect of tariffs and trade disruption: the waters in which they fish are the subject of a territorial row that stretches back decades. Carlingford Lough is a waterway that forms part of the border between the county of Down in British-run Northern Ireland and Louth in EU member Ireland.


Carlingford Lough border issues

In this picture Northern Ireland is seen on the left and the Republic of Ireland on the right with Carlingford Lough in the middle. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said it is of "vital national interest" that no physical barrier or customs controls be put back on the border, winning initial EU backing. But the fishermen of Carlingford Lough fear their concerns will not be a priority.


Stuck in the middle

Fisherman MacDonald explains: "No one can define who owns what. Neither of the two governments have defined the border here and nobody can say where is the North and where is the South. We're stuck in the middle and nobody wants to talk to us about it."


Scenic view of the Irish landscape

In fact, talks are ongoing between the Irish and British governments relating to the jurisdiction of Carlingford Lough and the unresolved ownership of Lough Foyle, which lies to the west between Donegal and Derry. The Loughs Agency, a cross-border body overseeing both areas, said that in a statement.


Border dispute might hurt the industry

Mussel fisherman Brian Cunningham, seen here with his skipper Shay Fitzpatrick, explains, that most boats based in Northern Ireland normally fish off the coast in the Republic of Ireland. He thus fears that Brexit could lead to a doubling up of paperwork such as trawler registrations. This adds costs that would hurt the industry.


Difficult times ahead for mussel fishermen

"When Brexit comes, what's going to happen? We're going to have to jump through hoops that by the time the paper work is sorted out our mussels will be dead. Mussels are landed live, processed live and sold live to the customer. It's a live animal, so it's going to be very, very difficult," Cunningham says.

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