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Brexit begins: We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye - EU response to Article 50 letter

Tusk says he can't pretend he is happy as formal exit begins

Brexit: Formal process for UK's departure from European Union begins [Photos] Close

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

AFP/Getty Images

Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of European Council president Donald Tusk after the letter informing the European Council of Britain's intention to leave the European Union was handed over to Mr Tusk in Brussels.

Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of European Council president Donald Tusk after the letter informing the European Council of Britain's intention to leave the European Union was handed over to Mr Tusk in Brussels.

PA

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

AP

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Wire

PA

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. Pic: PA Wire

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. Pic: PA Wire

PA

A picture taken on March 29, 2017 shows British flags at the UK representation to the European Union in Brussels. 
Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow will deliver to Brussels today the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

A picture taken on March 29, 2017 shows British flags at the UK representation to the European Union in Brussels. Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow will deliver to Brussels today the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's permanent representative in Brussels arrives at his office at the UK permanent representation to the EU in Brussels Wednesday March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty later Wednesday which will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's permanent representative in Brussels arrives at his office at the UK permanent representation to the EU in Brussels Wednesday March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty later Wednesday which will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

AP

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, carries a briefcase as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, carries a briefcase as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

AP

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

AP

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow leaves the UK representation to the EU Tim Barrow in Brussels on March 29, 2017. 
Tim Barrow will deliver to European Council President Donald Tusk the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit.  / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow leaves the UK representation to the EU Tim Barrow in Brussels on March 29, 2017. Tim Barrow will deliver to European Council President Donald Tusk the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

People from Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit  in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

People from Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA

(left to right) MPs: Nicky Morgan, Nick Clegg and Chris Leslie join members of Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

(left to right) MPs: Nicky Morgan, Nick Clegg and Chris Leslie join members of Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester holds the flag of Europe during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester holds the flag of Europe during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Protesters hold flags of Europe and placards during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Protesters hold flags of Europe and placards during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  A protester wears a European Union flag as she takes part in a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester wears a European Union flag as she takes part in a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  A pro-EU protester carries a placard during a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A pro-EU protester carries a placard during a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Getty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to the Houses of Parliament to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions. Pic: PA wire

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to the Houses of Parliament to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions. Pic: PA wire

AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signs the Article 50 letter, as she prepares to trigger the start of the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signs the Article 50 letter, as she prepares to trigger the start of the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU on Wednesday.

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Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

EU Council President Donald Tusk has said the UK is already being missed after receiving the official letter triggering Article 50, adding: "thank you and goodbye".

Mr Tusk said that the invoking of Article 50 was not a happy occasion and that the two-year negotiation ahead would be a matter of "damage control".

Speaking just minutes after Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the delivery of the letter to MPs in the House of Commons, Mr Tusk said it was not "a happy day" for him or for the European Union.

He promised to begin arrangements for an "orderly withdrawal" for the UK, but said there was nothing for either side to gain from the two years of negotiations to come.

Mr Tusk was himself the first to announce officially that the so-called Article 50 letter had been handed to him in his Brussels office by UK permanent representative Sir Tim Barrow, revealing the news in a tweet several minutes before Mrs May's statement to the Commons began.

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He added: "There is nothing to win in this process - and I am talking about both sides."

"In essence, this is about damage control."

President Tusk has convened the European Council on April 29, 2017.

In a statement the European Council said: "The European Council received a letter from the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, notifying the United Kingdom's intention to leave the European Union. This notification follows the referendum of 23 June 2016 and starts the withdrawal process under Article 50 of the Treaty. We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow.

"For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for the negotiations by the European Council. These guidelines will set out the overall positions and principles in light of which the Union, represented by the European Commission, will negotiate with the United Kingdom.

"In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimise the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and Member States. Therefore, we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.

"We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner."

How historic day unfolded:

 


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