Britain's government will begin the process of leaving the European Union on March 29, starting the clock on the two years in which to complete the most important negotiation in a generation, the AP reports. Britain's ambassador to the 28-nation EU, Tim Barrow, informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the timing on Monday, the Department for Exiting the European Union said. The notification of triggering Article 50 of a key EU treaty will come in the form of a letter delivered to Tusk, though it was unclear whether it would come through an actual letter or an electronic missive. The 10 Downing Street office of PM Theresa May said she'll make a statement in the House of Commons on the day Article 50 is triggered. The announcement came after May pushed through legislation to start the negotiations to start the withdrawal, set in motion by voters in a June 23 referendum.
The trigger for the tumult is Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, a never-before-used mechanism for withdrawing from the bloc. It stipulates the two sides now have until March 2019 to agree on a split and, if possible, establish a new relationship. The letter May sends next week will plunge Britain into a period of intense uncertainty, not knowing whether businesses will freely be able to trade, students can study abroad, or pensioners will be allowed to retire with ease in other EU states, staples in the UK since it joined the European Economic Community in 1973. It's not certain Britain will survive the exit intact: Scotland's nationalist first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is seeking a referendum on independence within two years. Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU. The European Commission says it stands prepared to help. "Everything is ready on this side," a rep notes.