Theresa May tells Tory Party conference she will trigger article 50 by March 2017
PRIME Minister Theresa May has confirmed that she will trigger Article 50 no later than March of next year, adding the the UK would be leaving the European Union in its entirety and indicating a 'hard Brexit' as favoured by the leave campaign.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference on Sunday, Ms May said there will be "no unnecessary delays" in kicking off negotiations to leave the EU, confirming she will begin the two-year process by the end of March 2017.
The announcement means membership of the 28-nation bloc is likely to end by the summer of 2019 with the British prime minister for the first time hinting at a hard Brexit with tighter inmigration controls that could have an impact on freedom of movement along the Northern Ireland border with the Republic.
Mrs May confirmed plans for a Great Repeal Bill to repeal the 1972 Act of Parliament which took Britain into what was then the EEC, and to transpose EU laws into domestic law.
She insisted she will aim to strike a deal with former EU partners to include "co-operation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism work, free trade in goods and services" and "to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market and let European businesses do the same here".
Rejecting arguments that Britain must make a "trade-off" between controlling immigration and enjoying single market access, she said: "Let me be clear, we are not leaving the EU today to give up control of immigration again and we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
"As ever with international talks, it will be a negotiation. It will require some give and take.
"That means we are going to leave the EU. We are going to be a fully independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.
"That means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.
"I know some people ask about the 'trade-off' between controlling immigration and trading with Europe. But that is the wrong way of looking at things.
"We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully independent, sovereign country.
"We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.
"We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year", she added.
However, Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said the British government was "taking a leap into the dark" with no plan for what a Brexit would look like.
"The issue of when the British government will actually trigger Brexit continues to be a movable feast.
"Theresa May has also made a U-turn on comments she made before the referendum when she said it was inconceivable to suggest a Leave vote would not have a negative impact on the border.
"The reality is that the British government is taking a leap into the dark with no plan and no idea what Brexit means.
"What is clear is there is no good outcome from Brexit.
"The people of the North voted to stay in the EU. That vote must be recognised and respected in any negotiations", he added.
Speaking at an event in Dublin former Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond said if the prime minister did not make concessions to Scotland then there would be a second independence referendum.
The SNP MP said Ms May was now "steering towards the rocks" and a "hard Brexit".
He said Ms May "would not bend on freedom of movement" which would result, he said, in other EU states not bending on membership of the single market.
Mr Salmond said he believed the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, would make a "more positive proposal to discharge her mandate to preserve Scotland's connection with Europe".
He said that if Westminster refuses to make concessions to Scotland, Ms Sturgeon will call a second referendum on independence.
Mr Salmond said this would be held by the autumn of 2018, and he said he was certain it would pass.