Brexit Begins: UK Officially Triggers Talks To Leave The EU

The U.K. has officially told the European Union it intends to leave the bloc. This procedure formally starts the two-year exit process.

Brexit Begins: UK Officially Triggers Talks To Leave The EU
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It's officially official: Brexit has begun.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to the European Council, which triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Article 50 gives the European Union and the U.K. two years to negotiate the terms of separation before the country gets expelled from the treaties that bind the EU together.

But the two sides can decide to extend the talks — and they might have to. There's still a lot of work to do before they part.

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For starters, the EU and U.K. have to negotiate what they're going to negotiate. The U.K. wants to set up a trade deal with the EU while working out the fine details of the exit. But some EU representatives want to focus on Brexit and save the trade deal for later.

Then there's the relationship between the two estranged powers. Two particularly contentious issues might arise: access to the EU's single market and the movement of EU citizens between countries.

Until negotiations are finished, the U.K. will still be a part of the EU. That means the country still gets the economic benefits of membership, but it also means it can't formally work out trade deals on its own with other non-EU countries until it leaves.