British Prime Minister Theresa May said she will be triggering the process to leave the European Union (EU) by the end of March.
The announcement was made at the Conservative Party’s annual conference on Sunday.
The deadline to trigger leaving the trading bloc comes after Britain voted to leave the EU in June, propelling May to power to take up the reins to guide Britain through one of the most complex deals since World War Two.
"We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year," May told the party’s annual conference in Birmingham, Central England.
I want to be absolutely clear. There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article 50. pic.twitter.com/xSmfzhiGTn
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) October 2, 2016
Using Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty will plunge Europe's second largest economy into two years of painful horse trading with its EU partners, who have voiced deep frustration at the delay in setting a date to start divorce proceedings.
Her comments were welcomed by the EU, with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, saying the statement had brought "welcome clarity" to the situation.
PM May's declaration brings welcome clarity on start of Brexit talks. Once Art. 50's triggered, EU27 will engage to safeguard its interests
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 2, 2016
May's announcement means the process will start before next year's crucial elections in Germany and France, with an uncertain impact on the polls in the EU's most powerful nations.
European powers keen to dampen rising euroscepticism in their own backyards have taken a hard line with Britain, warning that informal negotiations cannot start before the two-year notification process is triggered.
Great Repeal Bill
May also announced that a "Great Repeal Bill" would be introduced to scrap the supremacy of EU laws in Britain on the day of exit from the bloc.
Some members of her Conservative Party said that the bill is little more than a technicality, but many others said it was the first step for Britain to reclaim power and dispense with some EU regulation.
PM says UK will trigger Article 50 by March next year. Confirms that Great Repeal Bill really about reassuring nervy Leavers
— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson) October 2, 2016
It was May's firmest commitment to a clear break with the EU since she became Conservative Party leader and premier in the political upheaval that followed June's Brexit referendum.