UK to start EU exit process before end of March: PM

LONDON - Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday that Britain would start the formal process for leaving the European Union by the end of March 2017.

Before now May has only said that Britain would not trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty - which sets a maximum two-year clock ticking until a country's departure from the 28-member bloc - before the end of this year.

May said she would be giving further details during her speech Sunday to her governing centre-right Conservative Party's on the opening day of its annual conference in Birmingham, central England.

"I've been saying that we wouldn't trigger before the end of this year so that we get the preparation in place," she told BBC television.

"We will trigger before the end of March next year." She said that once Article 50 had been triggered, it would be up to the rest of the EU to decide how the negotiation process goes ahead.

"I hope, and I'll be saying to them, that now that they now what our timing is going to be - it's not an exact date but it's going to be in in the first quarter of next year - that we'll be able to have some preparatory work so that once the trigger comes, we have a smoother process of negotiation," she said of the coming months.

She said the June 23 referendum vote to leave the EU vote contained a clear message that the British public wanted the movement of people from the rest of the EU to be controlled.

"We will deliver on that," she said.

"What people want is to know that the government is able to decide who can come into and set the rules for who can come into the country.

"We will look at the various ways that we can bring in the control that the British people want and ensuring... that the brightest and best can come to the UK." Earlier she announced a "Great Repeal Bill" to end the authority of EU law once Britain leaves the union.

The legislation will overturn laws that make EU regulations supreme, enshrine all EU rules in domestic law and confirm the British parliament can amend them as it wants.

"This marks the first stage in the UK becoming a sovereign and independent country once again," May told The Sunday Times newspaper.

"It will return power and authority to the elected institutions of our country. It means that the authority of EU law in Britain will end."