Theresa May will trigger Article 50 to begin the two year process of leaving the EU on Wednesday March 29, it was announced today.
The UK government will inform the EU through a letter addressed to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
Tusk was told when the letter would arrive at 10.30am this morning.
The prime minister’s spokesperson said: “The EU’s permanent representative to the EU informed the office of Donald Tusk that it’s the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 on March 29.
“There will be a letter and she will notify President Tusk in writing. That process is set out in Article 50 herself. The prime minister has confirmed that she will give a statement to parliament as well.”
Downing Street expects a response from the EU within 48 hours of the letters arrival and is hoping to begin the Brexit negotiations soon afterwards.
The spokesperson said: “After we trigger the 27 (EU nations) will agree their guidelines for negotiations and the Commission’s negotiating mandate. President Tusk has said he expects there too be an initial response within 48 hours.
“We want negotiations to start promptly but it’s obviously right that the 27 have an opportunity to consider their position.”
The European Commission responded to the news by confirming that “everything is ready on this side… we are waiting for notification”.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the government had done nothing to assuage the nation that it was not heading for a hard Brexit that would hurt the economy and damage living standards.
He said: “In just over a week, this country will begin its exit from the European Union yet still we have had not one word of assurance from the prime minster that jobs and the economy are her top priorities.
“We urge her to use the remaining time to calm fears that we are heading for a hard Brexit by stating that she will pursue single market access and barrier- free trade.
“This is what is urgently needed to secure the investment in and commitment to the products and plants upon which hundreds of thousands of Unite members, and ordinary working men and women right across the country, depend.”