UK Prime Minister Theresa May could begin the formal process for exiting the European Union by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as early as Tuesday, according to officials in London and Brussels.
May had pledged to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, which leaves less than three weeks to begin the Brexit process.
One UK government official involved in the Brexit discussions said the process could begin on Tuesday when May is due to address the House of Commons in Parliament, but would certainly start by the end of the week.
The EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is set to be debated by lawmakers in the Commons on Monday, when they will decide whether to accept two amendments added to the bill by the House of Lords.
One of the amendments added by the House of Lords would force Downing Street to give lawmakers a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit agreement before Britain leaves the bloc.
The other amendment requires London to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK following a Brexit.
EU leaders warned they expected the exit talks to be complex.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel (pictured below) said that “there will be difficult discussions on all subjects but also on the financial aspects” of Britain’s departure. “The British did not make a good choice.”
European Council President Donald Tusk said that other European capitals would be ready to issue draft “guidelines” for negotiations within 48 hours.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he hoped that Britain’s referendum to leave the EU could one day be reversed.
In a landmark referendum held on June 23, nearly 52 percent of British voters, amounting to more than 17 million citizens, opted to leave the EU, a decision that sent shock waves throughout the world.
Those in favor of a British withdrawal from the EU argued that outside the bloc, London would be better positioned to conduct its own trade negotiations, better able to control immigration and free from what they believe to be excessive EU regulations and bureaucracy.
Those in favor of remaining in the bloc believed that leaving it would risk the UK's prosperity, diminish its influence over world affairs, and result in trade barriers between the UK and the EU.