In a speech in London this afternoon, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that Britain has already left the European Union and bypassed the Article 50 process – it has emerged that the exit took effect on January 4th 2017.

According to Mrs May, the most effective method of negotiation was for the entire process to be swiftly carried out in secret, and all of the arrangements were put in place between August and December of 2016.

She said: ‘When we started our negotiations with Brussels, we knew that it was incredibly important to keep them very much out of the public eye. Therefore, although the accepted position was that Article 50 would be activated in March 2017, ministers actually activated Article 50a shortly after the referendum result was known.’

‘Article 50a of the Lisbon Treaty is often referred to as the ‘fast-track exit process,’ and it allows all of the necessary exit operations to be carried out once an ‘inconvenience dividend’ has been paid to the Central EU Bursary Department.’

‘After the exchange rate has been applied, this was roughly £6.52bn, and we considered this to be excellent value for money as the two-year process could have cost anything up to £7bn.’

Shortly after this shock announcement had been made, a member of the audience accused Mrs May of ‘a horrible deceit,’ mentioning that there had been no restrictions on cross-border movement by British citizens since January 4th.

She replied: ‘When we negotiated our accelerated withdrawal, we included a legal arrangement known as Restum Delicto – this is a defined process where cross-border movement can be retained beyond the limitations of an existing agreement.’

‘In this case, the arranged cut-off point is one minute past midnight on 18th January 2017. Similar legislation is in place for non-British nationals who are in the United Kingdom – they should all be receiving a letter in tomorrow’s post, asking them to complete a brief tie-breaker question in no more than 50 words entitled ‘I should be allowed to remain in the UK because.’

‘All entries will be judged by a panel of experts including Fred Dineage, Sir David Attenborough and the desk man off Pointless, and the most creative entries will be granted a visa.’

‘Also, if all British citizens within the EU could pop back before midnight, that would be great.’

At this point in the speech, another member of the audience asked if the withdrawal process could have been accelerated even further.

Mrs May replied: ‘You have to be aware of the dangers of pulling out too quickly – it can result in a terrible mess that takes ages to clear up.’