Theresa May is Britain’s second woman prime minister and the second not for turning after triggering Article 50 to take the country out of the European Union.
Echoing Margaret Thatcher’s defiant ‘this lady’s not for turning’ speech to the Tory conference in 1980, May declared March 29 is a ‘historic moment from which there is no turning back’.
But at the same time, she explained this was a ‘unique opportunity to shape a brighter future for Britain’.
May was addressing the House of Commons shortly after Brussels ambassador Sir Tim Barrow handed the letter giving notice of Britain’s exit from the EU to European Council President Donald Tusk.
He will reply within 48 hours.
May went on to say: “Today the government acts on the democratic will of the British people and it acts too on the clear and convincing position of this House.
“The Article 50 process is now under way and in accordance with the wishes of the British people the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.
“This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back.
“Britain would take control of the things that matter most to us – we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain, a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home.”
Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon is the document that outlines how a member state leaves the EU and lays down the two-year time limit, although this deadline can be extended if the departing state and the EU agree.
Thank you and goodbye
In response, Tusk said: “We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.”
He added that this was not a happy day for him or the EU.
“In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our priority will be to minimise the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states. Therefore, we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal,” said a statement from the European Council.
“We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner.”
Read the full letter from Theresa May to the EU and the European Council statement