British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has signed the letter that will formally begin the UK’s departure from the European Union, commonly referred to as BREXIT.
Giving official notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the letter will be delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk later.
Addressing the House of Commons, the Prime Minister told the legislators that it was “the moment for the country to come together”.
The move follows a referendum held in June 2016 which during which the majority voted to leave the EU.
Prime Minister May’s letter has been delivered by the British Ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow.
Addressing the Parliament, May promised to “represent every person in the whole United Kingdom” during the negotiations – including EU nationals, whose status after BREXIT has yet to be settled.
“It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country,” she said.
“For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together.
“We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” May said.
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said his party respected the decision to leave the EU and would hold the government to account “every step of the way” adding that “Britain is going to change as a result. The question is how.”
Corbyn however warned that it would be “a national failure of historic proportions” if Prime Minister May does not secure protection for workers’ rights.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said that triggering of Article 50 was “a pivotal moment for Britain”, insisting that the government “will get a deal”.
But he added that ministers would be prepared to compromise during the process.
“Everybody in the EU and the UK is going to go into this negotiation looking to protect their own interests…
“We understand that we can’t cherry-pick, we can’t have our cake and eat it – that by deciding to leave the EU and negotiate a future relationship with the EU as an independent nation, there will be certain consequences of that and we accept those.”
He said EU citizens could still move to the UK and have their full rights while the UK remains “full members of the EU for the next two years”.
On Tuesday night, Theresa May spoke by telephone to EU Council President, Donald Tusk; EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Article 50 gives both sides two years to reach agreement, so unless both sides agree to extend the deadline for talks, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.
Negotiations are expected to begin in mid-May. The UK government says it wants to carry out both separation and trade talks at the same time, but EU chiefs say the two issues must be handled separately.
The UK has said it wants an “early agreement” to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and those of British nationals living abroad.
Other issues which are likely to be discussed are cross-border security arrangements, the European Arrest Warrant, moving EU agencies which have their headquarters in the UK and the Britain’s contribution to pensions of EU civil servants – part of a wider “divorce bill” which some reports have suggested could run to £50 billion.
The PM was forced to consult Parliament before invoking Article 50 after it lost a legal challenge in the Supreme Court, but it secured the backing of most MPs earlier this month.
On Thursday the government is expected to publish details of its “Great Repeal Bill”, which aims to convert EU law into domestic legislation and repeal the European Communities Act, which says EU law is supreme to the UK’s.