LONDON — The European Union expected Britain to invoke Article 50 this week and had put plans in place in preparation for the historic event.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani had organised a press conference to take place on Thursday in anticipation of Prime Minister Theresa May triggering the start of Brexit talks on either Tuesday or Wednesday, according to The Times.
The report adds that European Council President Donald Tusk expected Prime Minister May to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty this week, so too did the European Commission.
An EU summit had reportedly even been scheduled for Thursday, April 6 — but this is expected to be pushed back to a later date with May not set to get Brexit underway until the end of March.
Parliament approved the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on Monday night, paving the way for the bill to receive royal assent and officially pass into legislation this week.
May will have the authority to trigger Article 50 as soon as this process is completed.
However, the prime minister is not expected to initiate Britain’s formal exit from the European Union until the end of March, despite widespread speculation that it would be triggered immediately after the Brexit bill is approved.
Monday, March 27 is currently the pencilled-in date, according to multiple reports.
Tusk tweeted on Wednesday morning that the 28-nation bloc “would not be intimidated” by threats that the EU would be left in a worse position than Britain if the latter walked away at the end of negotiations with no exit deal.
This follows the government’s repeated claim that a “bad” Brexit deal would be preferable to no deal at all.
In the keynote speech May gave in January, she said: “And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise — while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached — I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis and Trade Secretary Liam Fox both hinted over the weekend that the government was preparing for Britain to leave the EU with no deal and as a result default to World Trade Organisation trading rules.
A number of business leaders have warned the government about the damage dropping back to WTO would do to Britain’s economy. This scenario would be a “disorderly crash landing Brexit,” the CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn said.
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