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Wheels set in motion for Brexit

Summary of Article 50 and what happens once it is triggered

After weeks of wrangling, lawmakers on Monday finally granted British Prime Minister Theresa May the right to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would start the two-year process of the country's divorce from the European Union (EU).

She is expected to trigger it later this month. Here's a look at what it means and the likely key dates in the process.

What is Article 50?

Article 50 is the part of the EU treaty that lays down the procedure for a member to leave the 28-nation bloc. It was drafted under the Treaty of Lisbon, which was meant to streamline the bloc's decision-making.

What does it say?

The article is quite short, with just five paragraphs.

It states that any EU member state may decide to quit the EU, that it must notify the European Council and negotiate its withdrawal with the EU, that there are two years to reach an agreement - unless everyone agrees to extend it.

The exiting state cannot take part in EU internal discussions about its departure.

It says any exit deal must be approved by a "qualified majority" (72 per cent of the remaining 27 EU states, representing 65 per cent of the population) but must also get the backing of members of the European Parliament.

The fifth paragraph raises the possibility of a state wanting to rejoin the EU having left it.

That will be considered under Article 49. It was written by the Scottish cross-bench peer Lord Kerr of Kinlochard.

He has said he thought it would be most likely used in the event of a coup in a member state and had never imagined it being used for Brexit.

When will PM May trigger Brexit?

Queen Elizabeth will formally approve legislation giving the government the power to trigger exit talks with the European Union in the coming days.

Yesterday, PM May told parliament: "I will return to this house before the end of this month to notify when I have formally triggered Article 50 and begun the process through which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union."

Friday and Saturday

The Scottish National Party to hold its spring conference.

It has threatened to call a second vote on independence if the British government does not take the interests of Scotland into account in Brexit negotiations.

March 25

The other 27 EU leaders meet in Rome to mark 60 years of the founding treaty. The British government wants to avoid spoiling the party by filing for divorce around then.

March 31

Mrs May's self-imposed deadline for triggering Article 50.

After Article 50 is triggered

April 6-7

The EU27 has pencilled in a summit to agree to the guidelines for the EU executive negotiating team led by Mr Michel Barnier.

The EU needs about four weeks to prepare the summit, so any delay in Mrs May sending the Article 50 letter may push it back.

April 14-May 15

If the EU cannot hold its summit before Good Friday on April 14, Easter holidays across Europe will delay it until after the French presidential election begins on April 23.

They want to hold it before May 15 however, when French President Francois Hollande hands over to a successor.

Legal challenge?

A legal challenge has been submitted to the High Court in Dublin arguing that Britain can reverse the Article 50 trigger.

The claimants hope that a decision to refer the case to the European Court of Justice will be given next month. - COMPILED BY THE STRAITS TIMES FROM REUTERS, BBC, NYTIMES

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