British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday said she will formally begin the process of the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) by the end of March 2017, ending the speculation surrounding the timing of the move.
May confirmed the deadline for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets in place a two-year process of withdrawal or so-called Brexit, as the first quarter of next year.
She has also promised a "Great Repeal Bill" in the next Queen's Speech, which sets parliamentary business for the year.
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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.
It will repeal the act that took the UK into the forerunner of the 28-nation trading bloc and remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the UK's statute book after the British public had voted in favour of Brexit in a June 23 referendum.
"This is about delivering for the British people, and this is not just about leaving the EU, it's about that essential question of the trust people have in their politicians. The people have spoken, we will deliver on that," May was quoted as saying by BBC.
When pressed, she did not give an exact date beyond saying "by the end of March" for triggering Article 50, but said it set the timetable "for the first quarter of 2017".
"We'll be starting the negotiations once we ve triggered Article 50, but I think it's important to get the right deal for the British people," she said.
May said she believed it was important to have a deal in place with the EU, hinting that was preferable to a so-called 'hard Brexit' in which the UK leaves the economic bloc without a formal deal in place for a continued trading relationship.
"I think we do want to negotiate what the relationship will be. Things will be different in the future, once we leave the EU, we'll be in a different position. We'll be an independent country. Crucially, we still do want to have a good relationship with Europe and the European Union," she added.
In an interview with 'The Sunday Times', May said: "We will introduce, in the next Queen's speech, a 'great repeal' bill that will remove the European Communities Act from the statute book.
This marks the first stage in the UK becoming a sovereign and independent country once again. It will return power and authority to the elected institutions of our country. It means that the authority of EU law in Britain will end, she said.
The prime minister has rejected calls from some Eurosceptic quarters to immediately repeal the 1972 act, saying the country needed "maximum security, stability and certainty for workers, consumers, and businesses, as well as for our international allies".