Process will take at least two years, with plans for Ankara Agreement not yet clear
Britain formally began the process of exiting the EU by handing over a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk on Wednesday.
“This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” said Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons moments after the handover.
“Britain is leaving the European Union. We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws. We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us.
“And we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain – a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home.”
In a statement afterwards Mr Tusk said: “For me, I will not pretend that I am happy today.”
He continued: “But, paradoxically, there is also something positive in Brexit. Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before.
“I am fully confident of this, especially after the Rome declaration. Today, I can say that we will remain determined and united also in the future during the difficult negotiations ahead.
“This means that both I and the Commission have a strong mandate to protect the interests of the 27.”
He concluded with the words: “We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.”
The negotiations are expected to last two years, but they are not expected to be easy.
Mrs May immediately ran into resistance from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the European Parliament over her goal of conducting negotiations on Britain’s trade relations with Europe at the same time as talks on arrangements for Brexit.
European leaders said the exit negotiations must be concluded before a new trade deal is agreed between the UK and the remainder of the EU.
On Thursday, Brexit Secretary David Davis unveiled the Great Repeal Bill, the law that will be used to repatriate EU law into the UK.
It was not yet clear how such European measures as the Ankara Agreement, used by Turkish citizens to set up businesses in Britain, will be affected.