Britain initiates EU exit process

March 30, 2017

Britain’s ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers the formal notice to European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday (AFP)

Britain launched the process to leave the European Union on Wednesday, saying there was “no turning back” from the historic move that has split the country and thrown the bloc’s future into question.

Just days after the EU’s 60th birthday, Britain became the first country ever to seek a divorce from the 28-nation bloc, striking a blow at the heart of an alliance forged from the ashes of World War II.

“This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs. Nine months after the shock referendum vote for Brexit, Britain triggered Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, starting the two-year countdown to leaving.

“We already miss you,” EU President Donald Tusk said in Brussels, after receiving the letter formally notifying him of Britain’s intention to leave. But French President Francois Hollande warned that Brexit “will be painful for the British”.

The EU is determined to preserve its unity and has said that any Brexit deal must not encourage other countries to follow Britain out of the door. The six-page letter, signed by May and delivered by British ambassador Tim Barrow in Brussels called for a “deep and special partnership” with Brussels.