Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and formally begin the process, no later than March 2017, for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

May’s timetable would set up the U.K. to leave the EU around the spring of 2019 following at least two years of negotiations.

Key points:

  • The prime minister’s remarks, offered at a Tory Party conference, were the clearest indication yet of when the U.K. will begin the process of leaving the EU. “We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year,” May said.
  • May also indicated that the U.K. would make a clean break from the EU. “It’s not going to be a Norway model,” she said. “It’s not going to be a Switzerland model. It’s going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union.”
  • May said a “Great Repeal Bill” would be introduced to remove the 1972 European Communities Act, which gives effect to EU laws in the U.K., from the statute book. The bill would convert existing EU law, subject to amendment or repeal by Parliament, into British law. It would take effect the day the U.K. leaves the union.
  • While the U.K.’s future immigration policies for EU member states have not yet been set, the status of EU workers in the U.K. – and U.K. workers in the EU – will not change until at least 2019. Even then, May said, “existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am prime minister.”

Background: U.K. voters narrowly approved the Brexit referendum in June, creating questions about when and how the U.K. would leave the EU – and what the immigration impacts would be. May and Attorney General Jeremy Wright have both said that the decision on when to invoke Article 50 rests with the Government. However, a group of Brexit opponents has filed a lawsuit, saying that Article 50 can only be invoked through an Act of Parliament. A High Court hearing on this question is set for Oct. 13.

BAL Analysis: Brexit negotiations will not begin until next year. The status of EU workers in the U.K. and U.K. workers in the EU has not changed, and no new immigration regime has been formally proposed. Businesses can begin preparing for the post-Brexit landscape, however. BAL is able to assist in a number of ways, including assessing clients’ EU dependency; tracking EEA employees and new hires; and exploring EEA employee options, including the possibility of permanent residency and British citizenship.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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