British Prime Minister Theresa May on 28 March 2017 signed the letter that will trigger Britain's exit from the European Union (EU). The formal notification that seeks to leave EU was signed by May at 10 Downing Street office.
The letter is an official notification to other 27 European Union members that Britain has invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This letter was delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk by British ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow on 29 March 2017.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that was invoked with the sign provides both sides a time-limit of two years to reach an agreement.
This means, the letter also sets the clock for a two-year negotiation process for Britain's relationship with the EU as a non-member. Unless that time-frame is extended, Britain will have to leave the economic bloc by 29 March 2019.
After signing the letter, the Prime Minster chaired a cabinet meeting before making a statement in the House of Commons confirming the countdown to the UK's departure from the EU has begun.
The signed letter is a follow-up step of the 23 June 2016 referendum which resulted in a vote to leave the European Union. In short, the notification of Article 50 marks the first formal step in the direction of Brexit after the June referendum in favour of Britain leaving the EU.
Timeline for Brexit
• 29 March 2017: Article 50 was triggered
• 30 March 2017: Great Repeal Bill was published. The bill aims at converting EU law into domestic legislation and repeal the European Communities Act.
• 31 March 2017: negotiation guidelines will be published by Donald Tusk, the President of the European Union
• 29 April 2017: EU summit, where remaining members of the European Council will adopt negotiation guidelines
• Spring 2017: Great Repeal Bill will be announced at the opening of the Parliament
• May/June 2017: Face to face talks will start
• Late 2017: The Great Repeal Bill will go through stages of parliamentary scrutiny
• December 2017: Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, will expect initial discussions to conclude
• Early 2018: The Great Repeal Bill will receive royal assent
• Mid 2018: Parliament will have to pass certain laws that will help in covering gaps (if any) in the legislation
• 30 September 2018: Michel Barnier will wrap up the Brexit terms
• End of 2018 or start of 2019: Both houses of Parliament along with European council and Parliament will have a vote on the deal
• March 2019: The negotiation period of two years comes to an end and with this end UK will leave the Union with or without any agreement.
*Timeline is based on reports