LONDON — Article 50, the formal notification of Britain's intention to leave the EU, will be triggered on March 29, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed on Monday morning.
The notification will take the form of a letter addressed to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.
The UK government informed Tusk at 10:30 a.m. (GMT) on Monday morning.
"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," a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May said.
"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."
The spokesperson added that Downing Street expects a response from the EU up to 48 hours afterwards and hopes that divorce negotiations with the 28-nation bloc can get underway as soon as possible.
"After we trigger the 27 [other EU countries] will agree their guidelines for negotiations and the Commission's negotiating mandate. President Tusk has said he expects there to 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 by saying "everything is ready on this side... we are waiting for notification" while Tusk tweeted that he'll present the EU's draft Brexit plan to member states within 48 hours of Article being triggered.
Within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft #Brexit guidelines to the EU27 Member States.
Reacting to the news, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary attacked May for failing to develop a "national consensus" and united "divided" Britain ahead of Brexit talks getting underway.
He said: "Theresa May has repeatedly said that she wants to build a national consensus on Brexit, but it is increasingly clear she has failed to do so. Britain is now more divided at home and isolated abroad.
"It is also extraordinary that the Prime Minister has failed to provide any certainty about her plans for Brexit or to prepare for the clear dangers of not reaching a deal with the EU.
"Labour will hold the Prime Minister to account all the way, and argue for a Brexit deal that puts jobs, the economy and living standards first."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused the prime minister of leading the country into Brexit "with a plan and without a clue" of what she is doing.
Farron, who wants a second referendum on Britain's EU membership, said: "Theresa May is embarking on an extreme and divisive Brexit. She has rushed this through without a plan, and without a clue."
He added: "She has chosen the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit, choosing to take us out of the Single Market before she has even tried to negotiate. That’s why we believe the people should have the final say over the Conservative Brexit deal.
"Membership of the Single Market is vital for the British economy and for the jobs of millions of British people. Leaving the Single Market was not on the ballot paper in the referendum, it is a political choice made by Theresa May."
The pound dropped by around 0.1% within an hour of Downing Street making the announcement.
No snap election.
Downing Street also ruled out an early general election in advance of Brexit or 2020.
A number of senior figures in the Conservative Party have reportedly been trying to persuade May to hold an election in around six weeks' time but the prime minister is showing no signs of changing her mind.
"There is no change in our position on an early general election. There isn't going to be one," The PM's spokesperson said. It's not going to happen.
"We have been clear there is not going to be an early general election and the prime minister is getting on with delivering the will of the British people."
- The EU expected Theresa May to trigger Article 50 this week
- Theresa May is preparing to trigger Article 50 without knowing whether it's 'revocable'
- The Brexit bill giving Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50 has passed