A final deal on Britain’s exit from the EU could be reached by October 2018, the European Commission’s chief negotiator says, Sky News reports.Setting out the European Commission’s plans for the first time, Michel Barnier said: “Time will be short. It is clear that the period of actual negotiations will be shorter than two years.”
Mr Barnier said if Britain triggers Article 50 by the end of March – as Theresa May has said she wants to do – an agreement would be needed by October the following year to get it through the European Parliament by March 2019.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing the Government’s case for invoking Article 50 after the High Court ruled that the Government must put such a move to a vote by MPs. On triggering Article 50, Mr Barnier said: “The European Union is ready to receive the notification. We are ready. Keep calm and negotiate.”
He added: “It’s up to the British to say what relations they want and up to the 27 to define their future relations with Britain.” Britain voted to leave the EU in a shock referendum result in June, but Mrs May is yet to set out the UK’s demands in detail.
The Government has accepted a Labour motion which called on the Prime Minister to commit to publishing its Brexit plan before invoking Article 50, the formal process for leaving the EU. At least 20 Tory backbenchers were thought to be ready to back the Labour motion, according to pro-Remain Conservative MP Anna Soubry.
Mr Barnier warned that the UK would not be able to “cherry-pick” which EU rights and obligations it wishes to keep. He added: “Being a member of the European Union comes with rights and benefits. Third countries can never have the same rights and benefits since they are not subject to the same obligations.
The single market and its four freedoms are indivisible. Cherry-picking is not an option.” The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government does not want to extend Brexit negotiations beyond the two-year timetable and added it was confident it could achieve a “smooth and orderly” transition from the EU.
Mrs May continued to keep her cards close to her chest during a visit to Bahrain, refusing to rule out the UK paying for access to the single market after Brexit and repeating her promise to achieve an “ambitious” deal.
She said: “We will be looking to negotiate the best possible terms that we can with the European Union. “Crucially, this is not about how we retain bits of what we’ve already got, but what our new relationship with the EU is.
“And I think that’s a relationship which is not just a single UK as supplicant into the EU, actually it’s about the EU as well, it’s about the UK.”