Dutch nationals in Britain have priority in Brexit talks

European Council president Donald Tusk said the 27 non-UK leaders would meet then to set-out guidelines for what are expected to be gruelling negotiations ahead which must be completed by the end of March 2019.

The EU is expected to make the issue of Britain's exit bill a top priority when negotiations begin - it is thought the European Union will seek £50bn.

The European Council president has said he will issue draft guidelines for the 27 leaders within 48 hours of May triggering Article 50 - the divorce clause in the EU's treaties - next week.

Priority must be certainty, clarity for all: "citizens, companies & member states".

Britain's vote to leave the European Union means it has to renegotiate that access, but the ruling out of sectoral deals by European Union officials has rattled the aviation industry, which has to plan flight schedules well in advance and can not rely on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, unlike other sectors.

Mrs May told ministers the invoking of Article 50 on March 29 would be a "historic event" which will see Britain begin a "bold new chapter as a prosperous, open and global nation", her official spokesman said.

At the end of the process, May has said the UK Parliament will have a chance to vote on the Brexit deal, as will all the parliaments of European Union member states.

UK AND GERMANY TO SIGN NEW POST-BREXIT DEFENCE PACT Britain and Germany are planning to sign a new defence pact after Theresa May triggers Article 50. Reports have suggested the fee could be as high as 60 billion euros ($64.5 billion).

An EU spokesperson told reporters in Brussels that they are "ready and waiting" for the letter.

May has since hardened the government's stance - after taking over as prime minister from David Cameron - into a "hard Brexit" which will see the United Kingdom (including Scotland, which voted to remain) leave the single market and end free movement of people.

Speaking during a visit to Swansea, Mrs May said: "I am very clear that I want to ensure we get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom that works for everyone across the United Kingdom and all parts of the UK when we enter these negotiations".

Still, while the talks will be officially triggered at the end of March, the negotiations will not actually start until several weeks after the European Union summit, when leaders from the bloc gives their Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, their mandate.

Michel Barnier, a French diplomat, will lead negotiations for the Commission, with Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt representing the Parliament.

Britain has said it wants to agree its divorce and a new relationship with Europe within the two years.

Mr Barnier has set a target of October 2018 for the withdrawal talks to be wrapped up, allowing six months for the agreement to be ratified by the EU's parliaments.

  • Jon Douglas