On 29 March the Prime Minister triggered the process which will lead to the UK leaving the EU and will today be publishing a White Paper dealing with the first stages of the legislation required to give effect to our decision.

The combination of these two decisions makes it clear to anyone who doubted the Government’s intention that leaving the EU is now a very real event. The next couple of months will be quite difficult because the EU will be responding to the UK’s letter initiating the process at a time when it is under its own pressures and when major elections are due in France and Germany.

The UK should not be surprised at a strong response as the EU needs to demonstrate that being a member of it confers advantages which the UK is giving up. Although our friends in the EU are genuinely sad at our decision, they have to be hard-nosed in protecting the interests of the 27 members - the UK and Brexit is not their most important current consideration.

In the House of Commons yesterday I had the following exchange with the Prime Minister:

Like millions of others in the United Kingdom, I am proud of the European Union and the contribution that the UK has made to it during my political lifetime, and I am a little sad about today. However, I stand unequivocally with the Prime Minister as she calls for a united approach to a new future. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that in order to make that national endeavour meaningful, her door and those of her Ministers should always be open to all parties in the House, from all sides of the discussion, because a new script for the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom should be written as much by those who value the EU as by those who campaigned to leave it?

The Prime Minister: I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. As I said in my statement earlier, there will be those in this House who are celebrating and those who are sad and disappointed at the decision that has been taken. I reassure him that as we move forward and ensure that we get the best possible arrangements for the future, I want to listen, and Ministers want to listen, to all voices in this House, including those who were ardent on both sides of the campaign. As I have just indicated, we are also, of course, listening to all parts of the United Kingdom.

I will update again in a couple of weeks when we will be able to see the first responses to the UK’s position.

You can read the Prime Minister's letter to Donald Tusk here: http://tinyurl.com/mz429m2

The White Paper can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/mh6hyoo