British PM Theresa May signs Brexit letter to begin divorce from EU

British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed the historic letter that will launch Brexit, according to a photo released by her office. The letter will be delivered to Brussels on Wednesday.

England Theresa May unterschreibt Brexit-Antrag (REUTERS/C. Furlong)

Theresa May late on Tuesday signed the letter to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, nine months after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

The letter is to be hand-delivered to EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels on Wednesday, formally triggering the process to end Britain’s 44-year membership in the bloc.

From then, there are exactly two years to settle the terms of the divorce before it comes into effect in March 2019.

Around the same time the letter is delivered, May will address the British parliament and vow to achieve a Brexit deal for everyone in the UK, including EU nationals – of which there are around three million in the UK. The divisive campaign ahead of the June 2016 vote, and aftermath of the result, have left many EU citizens in Britain worried about their future.

Watch video01:03

UK Parliament clears way for Brexit

“It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country,” May will say, according to comments released in advanced by her office.

“We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” she will say.

May has a tough job ahead of her – negotiating with the EU’s 27 other member states on issues like finance, trade and security, while dealing with semi-autonomous Scotland’s renewed push for independence.

Scottish lawmakers presented the British government with an welcome distraction on Tuesday, voting to seek a new referendum on independence, after rejecting it in a poll in 2014.

The push is seen as protest at Brexit – Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, as did Northern Ireland, which is currently in a political crisis and risks losing self-government. Scottish and Northern Irish voters were outnumbered by support for Brexit in England and Wales.

jr/bw (AP, dpa, AFP)

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