Brexit: Article 50 process ‘underway’

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The UK’s permanent representative to the European Union (EU) has handed a letter to the President of the European Council confirming the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed.

May confirmed the letter giving notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU has now been given to Brussels in a statement to Parliament on Wednesday.

“The Article 50 process is now underway,” she said. “And in accordance with the wishes of the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, said: “Now that the stopwatch on leaving the EU has been triggered the government must ensure Britain’s manufacturers are not disadvantaged in any way as we prepare to leave.

“I strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s positive tone in calling for a deep and special partnership with the EU as we must work together with our European partners to achieve a new relationship, and one with effortless trade, which works for both Britain and the EU.

“While she says there is no turning back, she must ensure that the government heads in the right direction and is not unduly driven by those who will pressurise her to leave the EU without a deal.”

Paul Drechsler, CBI President, said: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to free trade and European values which should hearten those around the table and set a constructive tone at the start of the negotiations.

“This is a pivotal moment in our history and the time to be ambitious, level-headed and confident.

“It is in the interests of businesses across Europe to work together in absolute determination to make a success of Brexit. Our shared aim must be to forge a mutually beneficial deal that delivers barrier-free trade and safeguards prosperity for all. The Prime Minister has recognised this.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: "Triggering Article 50 has started a race against time to secure a deal that safeguards the future of the UK automotive industry.

"Government has committed to creating and supporting the right conditions for our industry to be successful. That means certainty in our relationship with our biggest market, tariff-free and open borders so products, parts and investment can flow freely, and continued influence over the regulation that governs the vehicles we build and drive.

"We will continue to work with government and our European counterparts but no deal is not an option. Now is the time for government to deliver."

You can read May’s full speech, here.