Just over a week from now, Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal notification of the United Kingdom's intention to leave the European Union, a spokesman for the British government said today.
The move will launch a two-year period of negotiations in which the British government and the EU hope to agree on the terms of Britain's exit and reach a separate deal on the shape of their future relationship, most importantly on the terms of trade between the two.
"Last June, the people of the UK made the historic decision to leave the EU. Next Wednesday, the government will deliver on that decision and formally start the process by triggering Article 50," Brexit minister David Davis said in a statement.
"The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union."
On 29 March, Mrs May will write to European Council President Donald Tusk to trigger the withdrawal process. Within 48 hours, Mr Tusk will send his draft negotiating guidelines to the 27 remaining member states.
Mr Tusk will then need about four weeks to prepare a summit of the 27 member states to agree on final guidelines and mandate the EU executive's Michel Barnier to negotiate. Mr Barnier will then reply to leaders with his detailed recommendations of how to structure talks.
Britain will most probably leave almost exactly two years to the date from when Mrs May writes the letter, at the end of March 2019.