Theresa May is sticking to her two year plan, and everything else we learned from the Article 50 letter

 
Mark Sands
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The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June. (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May has stressed her commitment to quitting the European Union in 2019 as she triggers Article 50 in a message delivered to Brussels today.

May hinted at her priorities in her letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk, delivered by the UK’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow.

In a six page message that also paid tribute to the “deep and special” partnership between the UK and Europe, the Prime Minister said the UK would seek a free trade deal “of greater scope and ambition than any such agreement before it”.

As well as identifying financial services as a particular target to be included in trade talks, she repeatedly stressed that divorce talks should take place simultaneously with those focused on establishing a new relationship with the EU and committed to completing the Brexit process on schedule.

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Despite conceding that reaching agreement within the two year time frame allowed by Article 50 would be “challenging”, the Prime Minister stressed that it was possible.

May also conceded that quitting the Single Market would have consequences for British businesses.

“We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy,” she wrote.

“We also know that UK companies will, as they trade within the EU, have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are longer a part - just as UK companies do in other overseas markets.”

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May said that officials would bring forward plans for “deep, broad and dynamic cooperation” in future, but she also hinted that the UK might seek to recover some of the resources put into the EU, in a possible response to demands for Britain to pay a “divorce bill”.

“We will need to discuss how we determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as departing member state, in accordance with the law and in the spirit of the United Kingdom’s continuing partnership with the EU,” she said.

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