e countdown is about to begin. The British Government writing to the EU, Wednesday, to set it's departure in motion.>> No pressure, but the clock is now truly ticking on Brexit. I'm Reuters' JK Greeves in Central London. We're here across the UK. There's one key timeline to bear in mind, in just two years, Britain is set to leave the EU.
There's no time to waste for the UK government. The process is intended to offer little breathing space to avoid anyone wanting to leave. By May 5th, the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will reach out to EU leaders with recommendations of how to structure talks. The month is also set to see the EU meeting to agree negotiation directives without the UK in the room.
December 2017 could be a key period. Brussels has said it wants a basic divorce deal on the table by this point. It's the nuts and bolts of leaving. The exit bill for Britain to pay into EU coffers, new border rules, and the treatment of ex-pats. Then the heart of it, what kind of relationship will they have after separation?
2018 will luckily be the pivotal year. Theresa May wants a so-called comprehensive free trade deal. The EU will argue that comes with a cost, likely contributions to their budget and freer movement for its citizens.>> Let me be clear.>> Just to complicate things, others have started their own countdowns.
Scottish Nationalists have called for a second independence referendum from Autumn of 2018. Theresa May has so far rebuffed the attempts, claiming nothing should delay Brexit. Britain and the EU might try to buy more time. There's a potential for a transitional deal to mean they fine tune agreements after 2019.
But if not, the UK's date with destiny would come around March of that year. Then the hands of Big Ben will usher in a very different Britain.