Triggering of article 50

Theresa May formally begins the process of taking Britain out of the EU

Dan Griffin Wed, Mar 29
LIVE: Triggering of article 50

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  • 10:14
    Good morning and welcome to the Irish Times live blog Brexit coverage. We'll be here with updates and reaction throughout the day as the UK prepares to pull the trigger and start the process that will see it exit the European Union.  
  • 10:19
    At 12.30pm this afternoon a letter signed by British prime minister Theresa May will be hand-delivered to the president of the European Council president Donald Tusk, kicking off two years of negotiations that will sever the UK's ties with the EU. At the same time, May will deliver a statement to MPs on Article 50.
  • 10:19
  • 10:22
    Meanwhile, Ryanair has warned that the  UK could find itself without any flights to or from Europe  for a period after March 2019 unless it puts aviation to the top of its Brexit negotiations.
  • 10:29
  • 10:45
    Theresa May will today promise to represent the interests of everyone in the United Kingdom, including European Union  nationals, as she starts two years of formal talks to take Britain out of the EU, our London Editor Denis Staunton writes.
  • 10:46
    If you're wondering what exactly article 50 is, here's a quick guide.
  • 10:51
  • 11:04
    Former British cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell told the BBC that the article 50 exit process had been designed by the EU to deter countries from leaving the union.  “We are in a plane being flown by members of the EU, and we’re about to jump out, and we’ve got a parachute that was designed by the people flying the plane, and they have designed it in a way to deter anybody else jumping out,” he told the BBC.
  • 11:05
    Cliff Taylor writes: Sterling is trading nervously this morning and is a touch weaker against the euro as I write, at just over 86.8p. The trouble for investors and traders is that we may not know a lot more later today, bar a bit of mood music. It will go like this in the months ahead. When there are rows in the talks, sterling will weaken, and when there are signs of progress it will recover. This is a key reason Ireland wants the talks to go well, as a weaker sterling hits our exporters.
  • 11:18
  • 11:28
    Now the Telegraph is warning that the article 50 letter will be delivered at a "secret time and location" amid fears of sabotage by Remain supporters.
  • 11:30
    Fair play to them.
  • 11:57
    When European Union leaders met on the Capitoline Hill last weekend to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and renew their vows of unity and solidarity, Theresa May stayed away. Nobody was surprised or offended by her absence and there was no sense of loss or incompleteness, of a limb or even an extremity missing. It was as if the UK, which today starts its two-year countdown to departure, had already left, writes London Editor Denis Staunton.
  • 11:59
  • 12:07

    Cliff Taylor writes: The Empire strikes back. The Guardian is reporting a leak of a European Parliament resolution in response to the triggering of Article 50. This is significant as while its views are not binding on EU negotiators. the parliament must approve the Brexit deal and the EU lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, is understood to have been involved in preparing the resolution.  

    In summary, it takes a hard line, insisting that  a new trade deal between Britain and the EU  can only be “ concluded” once Britain has actually left. Britain wants the two talks to go in parallel. On the issue of a transition deal to cover the period after Britain leaves and before a new deal is tied up, it says this must be three years, at most, and that during that period Britain must agree that disputes will still be settled by the European Court of Justice. It also says Britain must not seek to negotiate free trade deals with other non-EU countries until it leaves the EU, or if it does there can be no further discussions on a trade deal with the EU. It adds  there can be no special deal for the City of London.

    This is what is called upping the ante.

  • 12:13
    Meanwhile, Conservative MP James Gray has expressed his anger at the "petty minded bureaucracy" that means the Brexit Act will not be printed on goat skin because of so-called "modernisation, the Mail reports.
  • 12:20
    Theresa May is in the Commons for PMQs ahead of the article 50 statement. She tells the UUP's Danny Kinahan that sh will "never be neutral" on Northern Ireland remainaing in the UK.
  • 12:20
  • 12:27
  • 12:29
  • 12:34
    Donald Tusk says: "After nine months the UK has delivered."
  • 12:34
  • 12:35
    Theresa May is still taking PMQs but will deliver a statement to MPs in the Commons shortly.
  • 12:37
    May is on her feet, saying: "The Article 50 process is now underway and in accordance with the wishes of the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union".
  • 12:38
    She says the decision has been made and cannot be turned back and adds that leaving the EU presents the country with  a new opportunity and it is this generation's chance to shape a brighter future for the country.
  • 12:40
    She says she wants the UK to be a good neighbour to European countries but "I want us to be a truly global Britain" She adds that she wants the future relationship between Britain and Europe to work in the best interests of each other and the world.
  • 12:41
    She says the world needs "the liberal democratic values of Europe" and the chamber erupts in laughter as thoughts turn to the Lib Dems.
  • 12:43
    The government will put the final deal that has been agreed between the EU and the UK will be put to a vote in parliament, May says, adding that the strength of the union of the four nations of the United Kingdom will be strenghtened.
  • 12:44
    On the Republic, May says she wants to mainatin the free travel arrangement between Ireland and the UK and insists "there shall be no return to the borders of the past".
  • 12:45

    May says the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the rights of UK citizens living in the EU will be guaranteed as soon as possible.

  • 12:46
    "We will no longer be members of the single market."
  • 12:47

    May says there will be consequences of leaving: We know that we will lose influence over the rules that govern the EU economy.

  • 12:49
    "We want to continue to buy goods and services from the EU and sell them ours... in an increasingly unstable world we must continue to forge the closest possible relationship to keep our people safe," May tells MPs. She adds: There should be no reason why we can't form a partnership that works for us all.
  • 12:51
    She concludes: "This great national moment needs a great national effort...let us come together and work together... for if we do, we can make the most of the opportunities ahead."
  • 12:51
    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is now responding.
  • 12:53
    "Britian is gong to change as a result of leaving the European Union," Corbyn says. "The question is, how?" He says the direction the PM is seeking to bring the country is damaging and warns that there are those in the conservative party who would like to see Britain become a "tax dodgers paradise".
  • 12:55
    "We will use every parliamentry opportunity to make sure this government is held to account at every stage of this process." He says the prime minister must protect trade as well as jobs and workers' rights.
  • 13:01
  • 13:03
  • 13:10
    The SNP's Angus Robertson says the British government is ignoring the desire of the Scottish people to remain in the European Union. Theresa May risks making Scottish indepdenence an "inevitability", he says.
  • 13:13

    The European Council has responded to the UK's official notification that it intends to leave the EU: "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."

    Read response in full here.

  • 13:21
    European Council president Donald Tusk told reporters the other 27 EU Member States are now more united and will protect their interests in "difficult negotiations" before Brexit in 2019. Concluding his brief remarks to the media in Brussels, the former Polish prime minister said he had little to add about Britain but concluded: "We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye."
  • 13:54

    What happens now? Here's a timeline for what to expect in the next two years:

    March 30th: British government publishes a white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, which will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and transpose the acquis communitaire, the accumulated body of EU law, into British law.

    March 31st:  European Council president Donald Tusk publishes the EU’s draft negotiating guidelines for Brexit talks.

    April 23rd:  First round of French presidential election.

    April 29th:  EU leaders meet in Brussels to agree and adopt negotiating guidelines

    May 7th: Second round of French presidential election

    Mid-May: EU foreign ministers and European affairs ministers adopt a more detailed negotiating mandate for the European Commission and authorise the opening of the negotiations.

    Late May/early June: Brexit negotiations get under way.

    September 24th: German federal election.

    Autumn 2018: If a deal is agreed, it goes to the European Parliament, Westminster parliament and other national parliaments for ratification. European Council approves by qualified majority.

    March 29th, 2019: Britain leaves the European Union.

  • 13:56

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan says he is personally saddened by the impending departure of the UK from the European Union. The Brexit vote was "a bad decision" and this is "a sad day" he told RTE’s News at One.

    He said he agreed with President of the European Council Donald Tusk that "there are no winners" in this case. Mr Flanagan added that he welcomed the certainty that there now was on Brexit, but admitted there were "long and complex negotiations ahead".

  • 14:08
  • 14:30
  • 14:52

    British prime minister  Theresa May  has said her government “will never be neutral” on the future of Northern Ireland as talk of a referendum on a united Ireland grows.

    Read the full story here

  • 15:07

    Banks in Britain have tried to reassure their London staff over possible
    Brexit disruption, including a shift in jobs to continental Europe. Investments banks Goldman Sachs and Nomura were among those who sent messages to employees in London, Europe's biggest financial centre, as they work out how to keep serving clients across the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc.

  • 15:12
    The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has said:  “The delivery of prime minister May’s letter today triggering Article 50 finally puts in motion the reality of the UK withdrawing from the EU. While this is not a move that the chamber particularly welcomes, it is now imperative that all sides work together in the coming months and years to ensure that a deal is struck that does least harm to the economies of both the UK and Ireland."
  • 15:27
    Germany will strive in Brexit negotiations to make sure there is as little disruption as possible to the lives of European Union citizens living in Britain, chancellor Angela Merkel said.  "The German government will work intensively to make sure the effect on the everyday lives of those people is as small as possible," she said.
  • 15:31
    Eurosceptics toasted the triggering of Article 50 with cake and cava in Brussels, PA reports. Members of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group — which includes Ukip — hosted a lunchtime celebration at the Old Hack pub, opposite the European Commission’s Berlaymont building. Invites to the press said reporters would be welcome to take shots, both digital and alcoholic, as the group welcomed the confirmation the UK was leaving the European Union.
  • 15:55
    Correction: Madeira airport.
  • 16:02
    Commons speaker John Bercow said 113 backbench MPs asked questions to Theresa May during her 166-minute statement to the house on Brexit.
  • 16:02
  • 16:15
  • 16:19
    Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD acknowledged the triggering of Article 50 by the British government and the clarity brought to the Brexit process today. The Minister noted that “Today represents a key step for both the EU and the UK, and enables the start of exit negotiations. Ireland has been preparing intensively and extensively for these negotiations”.
  • 16:24
  • 16:31
  • 16:39

    From Reuters: The European Parliament said in a draft position paper on Wednesday that  Brexit can be revoked. The draft, seen by Reuters, also said there should be transitional arrangements to smooth the divorce but no more than three years, and that the London-based EU agencies, the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency, must move.

  • 16:40
    About 300 anti-Brexit campaigners have marched on the Stormont parliament in Northern Ireland to voice concerns about the future of free border movement. The demonstration included the erection of mock customs checkpoints to highlight fears about a hardening of the Irish border when the UK leaves the EU.
  • 16:43
    The Guardian reports: Theresa May’s warning that a lack of a deal with the European Union will mean that the UK would be less able to cooperate with the bloc in matters of defence and security has set the two negotiating sides on course for a clash on day one of the two years of talks triggered by her letter. One senior EU source said that it appeared as if Britain was seeking to “blackmail” the EU into giving it a deal.
  • 16:46
  • 16:55
    Will economic sanity lead to an orderly  Brexit  deal? Or will political tensions lead to a collapse in the talks , or at least an acrimonious and minimalist agreement between Britain and the EU? These are the key questions for the economy and Irish business as Article 50 is triggered, writes Cliff Taylor.
  • 16:56
    Thank you for reading our live Brexit coverage today.