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The formal process of taking Britain out of the EU will begin in the last week of March, Downing Street has said.

Despite widespread rumours that Mrs May would kickstart Britain’s exit as early as Tuesday, the government will not trigger Article 50 for another two weeks, government figures said on Monday.

There has been widespread speculation in recent days that Mrs May could do so as early as Tuesday afternoon, when she is scheduled to update the Commons about last week’s EU summit.

However on Monday Downing Street said that it will instead take place in the last week of this month – shortly before the deadline the prime minister set for herself.

“We have been clear that the prime minister will trigger Article 50 by the end of March,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

Government officials stressed the word “end” and confirmed that Brexit would begin in the final week of March, after the EU’s celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

One Westminster figure said that, in the wake of Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that she wants a new independence referendum, ministers were concerned that triggering Article 50 this week could “make it look as though [Mrs May] is cavalier about the union”.

Downing Street denied that Mrs May had moved the planned Article 50 date after Mrs Sturgeon’s intervention, however.

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