David Davis admits start of Brexit talks could be delayed despite PM claim
David Davis has admitted Brexit talks could be delayed beyond 19 June, contradicting Theresa May's repeated claims the negotiations would start "11 days" after the general election.
The Prime Minister made the argument on the campaign trail in a bid to convince voters that Jeremy Corbyn would not be ready to begin talks if he won the keys to No 10.
But PoliticsHome revealed last month that the European Commission, which will be the primary negotiating body, was willing to postpone the start of talks if there were a change of Government.
The process has been thrown into chaos after the Prime Minister lost her majority at the general election and with it much of her credibility with Brussels.
Asked on Sky News today about the start date for talks, Brexit Secretary Mr Davis said: "In the week of next week basically, is the first discussions.”
He added: “It may not be on the Monday because we have also got the Queen’s Speech that week and I will have to speak in that and so on, but that’s not because of the election.”
Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator in the crunch talks, said in May that he hoped the process would begin on 19 June.
Asked whether there would be scope to delay the start of talks in the event of a change of government, a European Commission source told PoliticsHome a date would be open to agreement.
"If the UK was to turn around and say, ‘we need a bit of leeway’ - we don’t have a lot of leeway in the big scheme of things," the source said.
"There are only a number of months - less than two years - to do this, so there isn’t a terrible lot of scope. But the Commission will agree with the UK the dates for the first negotiating sessions."
Today a spokesperson for the Commission said they were ready to negotiate as soon as the UK was ready. The spokesperson refused to say whether the Government had requested to delay the start of talks.
A European Parliament source told PoliticsHome there was "confusion" about the process for the talks, adding: "People are still wondering who they will be negotiating with."