U.K. Signaling Brexit Will Be Triggered in Late March, EU Diplomat Says

  • Next week still an option if May secures Parliamentary support
  • May under pressure to avoid Dutch election, Rome celebration

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Prime Minister Theresa May’s team increasingly expect the U.K. to trigger the start of Brexit talks in late March, according to two British officials and a European Union diplomat.

While the end of next week remains an option if May can secure parliamentary approval, signs are mounting in both London and Brussels that she will hold back until after a March 25 summit of EU leaders in Rome. All three officials asked not to be named as the matter is private.

While she still aims to make her move this month, May is constrained by events and must first wait for Parliament to pass a bill granting her the power to start two years of negotiations. After that, she is likely to want to avoid a clash with the Dutch election on March 15, or with the Scottish National Party’s conference on March 17-18.

Italian officials have also signaled that they do not expect the U.K. to interfere with their March 25 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding agreement.

The British government is “absolutely” on course to trigger Brexit this month, May’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Tuesday.

EU President Donald Tusk, speaking to reporters in Brussels ahead of a leaders’ summit that begins on Thursday, said that he expected the Brexit talks to begin “soon.” 

After official notification is received from the U.K., EU officials will need “more or less 48 hours” to respond with draft guidelines on the coming negotiations for the remaining 27 EU governments to consider. A special summit will then take place to finalize the negotiating strategy “probably in April,” he said.

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