A Union flag flies near the The Elizabeth Tower, commonly known Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament in London on February 1, 2017.
British MPs are expected Wednesday to approve the first stage of a bill empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to start pulling Britain out of the European Union. Ahead of the vote, which was scheduled to take place at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT), MPs were debating the legislation which would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning two years of exit negotiations. / AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A Union flag flies near the The Elizabeth Tower, commonly known Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament in London on February 1, 2017. British MPs are expected Wednesday to approve the first stage of a bill empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to start pulling Britain out of the European Union. Ahead of the vote, which was scheduled to take place at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT), MPs were debating the legislation which would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning two years of exit negotiations. / AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pro-EU demonstrators wave an mixed EU and Union flag as they protest against Brexit, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 11, 2018. - After a rollercoaster week of Brexit rows within her government and with Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday seek to avoid another setback in a long-awaited showdown with parliament. MPs in the House of Commons will vote on a string of amendments to a key piece of Brexit legislation that could force the government's hand in the negotiations with the European Union. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Cyclists pass a sign calling for no border to be imposed between Ireland and Northern Ireland outside Newry, Northern Ireland, on November 14, 2018 near the Irish border. - British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her anguished divorce deal with the European Union before rowdy lawmakers on Wednesday before trying to win the backing of her splintered cabinet with the so-called "Irish backstop" arrangement to guard against the imposition of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland one of the contentious issues, according to reports. (Photo by Paul FAITH / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

British official: 'On the threshold of the most important negotiation. .. for a generation'

The EU's 27 member states will need 4-6 weeks to hammer out an initial negotiating position

(CNN) —  

British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29, starting official Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union, her spokesman has confirmed.

The UK notified the EU on Monday of its intention to invoke Article 50 and will now prepare for a lengthy legislative and political program which promises to be anything but clear-cut.

“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 secretary David Davis said in a statement Monday.

“We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation,” he added. “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.”

In response, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, tweeted that he would present draft Brexit guidelines to the remaining 27 EU member states withing 48 hours.

Tusk’s spokesman, Preben Aamann, told CNN that the EU will require between four to six weeks to consult with the other 27 member states and hammer out an initial negotiating position.

Warning

The announcement comes a day after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that other member states will “realize it’s not worth leaving” the EU after they see the deal the UK gets.

The trigger day, which is next Wednesday, will come as the EU celebrates its 60th anniversary next week.

The loss of Britain to the bloc has created speculation that other states might decide to follow suit, something Juncker strongly disagreed with in an interview published on Sunday.

“They will all see from the UK’s example that leaving the EU is a bad idea,” Juncker told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“On the contrary, the remaining member states will fall in love with each other again and renew their vows with the European Union.”

’Intimidated’

European leaders have stepped up their rhetoric over the past week as the start of negotiations draws nearer.

Last week, Tusk said the EU would not be “intimidated” by threats from Britain that it would prefer to walk away from Brexit talks if it did not get its way.

And Juncker reiterated that view, insisting Britain would have to get used to be on the outside, looking in.

“Half memberships and cherry-picking aren’t possible,” Juncker told the German newspaper.

“In Europe you eat what’s on the table or you don’t sit at the table.”

Jean-Claude Juncker made his comments to a German newspaper.
PHOTO: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images/File
Jean-Claude Juncker made his comments to a German newspaper.

Scotland

May has already been fiercely criticized by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has demanded a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Sturgeon has made plain her view that Britain is heading for a “bad deal” on Brexit and wants Scotland to have a vote on independence before the terms of the deal are signed.

She has accused May of failing to engage with her call for Scotland to remain in the European single market after Brexit, and that Scotland risks being taken out of the EU against its will.

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Sturgeon’s demand that the referendum be held between late 2018 and early 2019 was met with fierce criticism by May, who rejected the motion by saying it wasn’t the “right time” for such a vote.