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British prime minister lays out Brexit timeline

March 31, 2017 - UNITED KINGDOM

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May set the end of March as the start of the two-year process that will take Britain out of the European Union. The nation voted to leave the 28-nation bloc in Jun 2016.

To exit, Britain has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives both sides two years to negotiate the terms of the split. The government must also enact a Great Repeal Bill, which will end the primacy of EU law in Britain.

The Supreme Court ruled on Jan 24 that parliament's House of Commons would need to approve triggering Article 50, and on Feb 1 the lawmakers voted 498-114 to set it in motion.

Under the deal offered by the May government on Feb 7, MPs will get a vote on any agreement struck with EU negotiators during the Article 50 process, to take place before any Brexit agreement is voted on by the European Parliament, but it will be a take-it-or-leave-it vote. The European Observer explains that if parliament rejects the deal, the UK will leave the EU anyway and would fall back to trading with the bloc on the basis of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

May announced the timeline on the opening day of the Conservative conference in Birmingham in 2016. It was her first major speech since the party chose her as leader to replace David Cameron, a casualty of the so-called Brexit vote.

The prime minister said the government would strike a deal with the EU as an "independent, sovereign" nation, and stressed that that there would be no deal on immigration to keep the UK in the single market.

Theresa May full Brexit speech (Independent 2 Oct 2016)

Theresa May says Britain must look beyond Europe (Telegraph 2 Oct 2016)

Theresa May to trigger Article 50 by end of March (BBC 2 Oct 2016)

May defeats plan to give MPs Brexit veto (EU Observer 8 Feb 2017)

Brexit explanation (BBC)

Date written/update: 2017-02-12