U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May pledged Sunday that Britain would trigger the formal process for leaving the European Union before the end of March 2017, putting to rest weeks of speculation on the timing of the move.
While the prime minister had long hinted that she would start the process early next year, many observers had speculated that she would hold off until the French presidential elections, due to conclude in May.
Britain voted in a June referendum to leave the EU, but has not yet invoked the article of the EU treaty that would trigger negotiations. Triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty early next year would set the nation on a course to leave the 28-nation trading bloc by 2019.
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May confirmed her plans to the BBC on Sunday ahead of ahead of a speech on the so-called British exit or Brexit at her Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
"I will be saying in my speech today that we will trigger (Article 50) before the end of March next year," she said.
The prime minister also said she would ask Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act, the measure that makes EU law British law. She said her government would incorporate all EU laws and then repeal measures as necessary on a case-by-case basis.
"That means that the United Kingdom will be an independent, sovereign nation," she said. "It will be making its own laws," May said of repealing the act.
Once the relevant section of the Lisbon Treat is invoked, there is a two-year timeline laid out for talks under EU rules. However, the process can be extended beyond two years, if Britain and all other EU countries unanimously agree.