The Latest: French minister relieved Brexit talks to start

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin is relieved that negotiations about Britain’s departure from the 28-nation European Union will finally get under way next week.

Sapin says Monday: “At last. We’ve been waiting for the negotiations to get started since Brexit was voted” — a referendum to the U.K. vote last June.

He told reporters in Brussels that “it’s taken a long time … but at last we are going to be able to get into the subject in detail.”

Sapin says he hopes the negotiations between Britain and the EU “can be done in a constructive manner, by both sides.”


1:15 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is rejecting the idea that Britain’s impending notification of its intention to leave the European Union will overshadow an upcoming summit to mark the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding treaty.

The other EU leaders will meet in Rome on Saturday. Britain announced Monday that it will formally trigger the process of leaving the EU on March 29.

Merkel noted that British Prime Minister Theresa May always said that would happen before the end of March.

Merkel said “it makes absolutely no difference whether the notification comes one day earlier, or three or seven days afterward.”

She said that the focus in the coming years in Europe will be to work on Brexit and “how we can strengthen the cooperation of the 27” other EU members.


12:20 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says he will present draft guidelines for the negotiations on Britain’s departure from the bloc within two days of London notifying its intention to leave on March 29.

Tusk has tweeted that “within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft Brexit guidelines to the EU 27 member states.”

By triggering Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaty, Britain will set in a motion a process that is expected to see it officially leave in early 2019.

Once the draft negotiating guidelines have been accepted, the European Commission will legally recommend the starting of talks. The remaining 27 EU member states would then have to sign off on that move and formally give a mandate to French politician Michel Barnier to conduct the negotiations on their behalf.

That process is likely to take at least a month, as a summit of EU leaders must be called.


12 p.m.

The European Commission says it has been informed in advance of Britain’s plans to trigger its exit from the EU on March 29 and stands ready to help launch the negotiations.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that “we have been informed in advance. We are ready to begin negotiations.”

He said that “everything is ready on this side,” and that the EU’s executive arm stands ready to play its role once the letter of notification is actually sent.


11:40 a.m.

Britain’s government says it will trigger Article 50, signaling Britain’s departure from the European Union, on March 29.

The Department for Exiting the European Union said in a statement that Britain’s permanent representative to the EU, Tim Barrow, informed the European Council President Donald Tusk of the timing on Monday morning. The notification of triggering Article 50 will come in the form of a letter.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said in a statement that the country is “on the threshold of the most important negotiation” for a generation.