Theresa May: 'divisive nationalists' will not weaken the UK

Business groups and opposition parties pressed Prime Minister Theresa May for more detail after she said she'll start pulling the United Kingdom out of the European Union in the first quarter of 2017, and hinted that she's tending toward a so-called "hard Brexit".

In an interview with the BBC on the morning her Conservative Party meets for its annual conference, May said Britain would begin the two-year process set out in Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in the first quarter of next year.

European powers keen to dampen rising euroscepticism in their own backyards have taken a hard line with Britain, warning that informal negotiations can not start before the two-year notification process is triggered.

"We'll be starting the negotiations once we ve triggered Article 50, but I think it's important to get the right deal for the British people", she said.

To loud applause, she added: "I know some people ask about the "trade-off" between controlling immigration and trading with Europe".

"Whether people like it or not, the country voted to leave the European Union", declared Mrs May.

Mrs May said Brexit would not cut the United Kingdom off from the rest of the world, but would transform it into "global Britain, a country with the self-confidence and the freedom to look beyond the continent of Europe and to the economic and diplomatic opportunities of the wider world". They have held the line that it is up to Britain to say what relationship it wants from outside the bloc: a position of no dialogue with London until a Europe-wide response has been agreed. "And we will be free to pass our own laws".

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The prime minister also said she would ask Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act, which automatically makes EU rules the law of the land in Britain.

The leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrat party, Tim Farron, said: "May has just confirmed that we are going for a hard Brexit". At the same time, the government will incorporate all European Union laws into British law and then repeal measures as necessary on a case-by-case basis, she said.

The former prime minister says Australians and Britons should be allowed to more freely work and travel in each other's country - given their shared history and culture - and Australians should stop facing passport queues at Heathrow airport. "We can't start the process without any idea of where we're going", he tweeted Sunday.

The Prime Minister cited initial scoping work that had ben done with Australia and New Zealand to form free trade agreements as evidence Britain could "stand tall...[and] forge an ambitious and optimistic new role in the world".

One of the biggest sticking points in any talks will be immigration.

Ms May's announcement came at the opening of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, amid widespread frustration in other member states about delays.

This means Brexit could happen in 2019, reports the Guardian.

  • Sonia Alvarado