The UK government has formally served divorce papers on the European Union, signaling the beginning of the end of a relationship that has endured for 44 years.
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, confirmed that the UK had triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, beginning a legal process that must end in two years’ time with Britain leaving the EU.
“This is an historic moment for which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union,” May told the House of Commons in London, according to a report by CNN News.
A few minutes earlier in Brussels, the British Permanent Representative to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, delivered a six-page formal letter of notification to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, in Brussels.
“The Article 50 process is now under way, and in accordance with the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union,” May said.
This official start to the Brexit process comes nine months after the UK voted in a hotly contested referendum that exposed deep divisions across the country.
The triggering of Article 50 starts the clock ticking on two years of talks between May’s government and the EU, which will involve everything from deals on trade, migration, education and healthcare.