The European commission’s chief Brexit broker has assembled a 30-strong taskforce to negotiate the deal and has so far visited 18 of the 27 remaining member states to hear their views.
“It’s clear that the actual negotiation period will be shorter than two years,” he said. “All in all, there will be less than 18 months. If, as Theresa May has said, we receive notification by the end of March, it is safe to say the negotiations could start a few weeks later and article 50 agreement would have to be reached by October 2018.”
“Time will be very short,” he said in Brussels, pointing out that at the beginning of the process the European council would need time to define its stance and at the end the council, the European parliament and the UK government would all have to approve the deal.
Michel Barnier held out the possibility of a “short transitional agreement” to bridge the period between the UK’s exit and the start of its future relationship with the union, saying it could be useful if the two sides had “a clear perspective” of what form the final relationship would take.
Britain will have less than 18 months to negotiate its departure from the European Union, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator has said, repeating that the final deal must be inferior to full membership.