Downing Street has refused to back up Boris Johnson’s claim that Brexit negotiations could begin “by the early part of next year” and may not take a full two years to complete.
The UK Foreign Secretary (Foreign Minister) made the claim – effectively lining up Britain for a ‘hard Brexit’ – in New York, where the 5+1 countries met to discuss the Iran nuclear deal.
“Talking to our European friends and partners now in the expectation that by the early part of next year you will see an article 50 letter. We will invoke that and in that letter I’m sure we will be setting out some parameters for how we propose to take this forward,” he said, adding “I don’t think we will actually necessarily need to spend a full two years, but let’s see how we go.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly refused to commit to a specific timetable for beginning the process of separation from the European Union. Her spokesman “refused to speculate” on Johnson’s claim.
While Johnson was in New York, May received European Parliament President Martin Schulz at Number 10 to discuss triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the official process for beginning the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Speaking ahead of the trip, Schulz said the EU parliament wants the exit process to be over by early 2019. He argues that it would be wrong if the UK electorate took part in EU parliamentary elections scheduled for later that year while exit negotiations are being hashed out.