When will Article 50 be triggered? Everything we know so far

The mechanism has to be enacted in order to start the formal negotiations for Brexit

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 02 October 2016 12:23
No one is entirely sure when Ms May will pull the trigger
No one is entirely sure when Ms May will pull the trigger

Since the UK voted to leave the European Union, speculation on when Britain will officially begin the process of Brexit.

Article 50 is the mechanism that allows any member state to trigger the formal negotiation process in order for them to exit the EU.

Theresa May created a new government department to help Britain the European Union but has yet to formally state when the mechanism will be enacted.

Until then the UK cannot negotiate any trade deals with the rest of the union and will not officially leave until exactly two years after it is triggered.

Despite the uncertainty, several leading politicians have speculated on when they think - or hope - Ms May might pull the trigger.

Theresa May

Theresa May has kept relatively tight lipped about Article 50 but has reportedly laid out her plans for her Cabinet members

Ms May has announced Article 50 will be triggered in March 2017 in order for Britain to leave the EU in March 2019, immediately ahead of the next European Parliament elections.

She also revealed that a Great Repeal Bill will be included in the Queen's Speech next May which will repeal the European Communities Act in 1972.

Brexit secretary David Davis said the bill will end the authority of European law in the UK from the moment the country leaves.

She has also said she would trigger Article 50 without seeking the backing of Parliament but she will keep it informed about the negotiations' process at "various stages".

Boris Johnson

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (left) was relieved that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) did not hold the poem against him 

The Foreign Secretary has joined the consensus that Article 50 will be triggered in early 2017 but he claimed it would take less than two years to negotiate an exit.

He said: “By the early part of next year, you will see an Article 50 letter which we will invoke and, in that letter, I am sure we will be setting out some parameters for how we propose to take this forward.

“You invoke Article 50 in the early part of next year [and] you have two years to pull it off. I don't actually think you need to spend the full two years, but let’s see how we go.”

The MP dismissed fears that Britain will suffer during the negotiations as the EU offers harsh terms to stop other countries contemplating an exit.

He said they would “benefit from fantastic opportunities for free trade with our friends in the EU”.

Meanwhile, at a recent summit about potential trade deals with Turkey, Mr Johnson expressed relief that the subject of a poem he wrote claiming the Turkish president had sex with goats didn’t come up.


Whitehall warns that the two new government departments are not ready to cope with Brexit negotiations 

Ministers have reportedly held secret discussions about delaying triggering Article 50 until autumn 2017 after civil servants warned they were not prepared.

The new departments for Exiting the European Union and International Trade have been frantically recruiting staff to be able to start negotiations with the EU but they reportedly “don’t have the infrastructure they need to hire”.

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness says Ms May assured him Article 50 will be triggered in the new year 

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said Ms May had told him Article 50 will be triggered “early next year”.

Speaking at a fringe event of the Labour party conference in Liverpool, the Sinn Fein politician said: “I asked her about when she will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty [and she said] that she was going to do it not this year but very early next year.

“So we are working on the basis that early next year, the article will be triggered.”

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk says it will be a 'sad moment' when Britain leaves but he will put the interests of the EU first 

European Council President Donald Tusk has also said Ms May told him she planned to start the process early in 2017.

He said: “Prime Minister May was very open and honest with me.

“She declared that it's almost impossible to trigger Article 50 this year, but it's quite likely that they will be ready maybe in January, maybe in February, next year.”

Mr Tusk said Britain’s vote to leave was “sad moment” for Europe but reconfirmed the EU view that Brexit negotiations must favour the interests of the remaining members, not the departing country.

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis said Atrticle 50 must be triggered immediately

The former Greek finance minister has said Article 50 must be triggered immediately in order to “create space and time during which to prepare yourself as a nation and a government”.

He said the UK needed to have a “robust debate” about what it actually meant because the discussion prior to the referendum had been of a “very low quality”.

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