Theresa May slaps down Boris Johnson over Article 50 claims

Posted On: 
23rd September 2016

Theresa May has moved quickly to reject suggestions from Boris Johnson that Article 50 will be triggered "by the early part of next year".

Boris Johnson's Brexit claims were swiftly rebuffed by No 10
PA Images

The Foreign Secretary claimed yesterday that the Government were expecting to begin the process early in 2017 and that it might even take less than two years to complete.

"We are talking to our European friends and partners in the expectation that by the early part of next year we will see an Article 50 letter," Mr Johnson told Sky News.

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But Downing Street has moved quickly to dampen any suggestion that there was a set timetable for starting the Brexit process. 

"The Government’s position is clear. The prime minister has said she will not trigger Article 50 before the end of the year. Ultimately it’s her decision," a spokesman said.

“She has said she will deliver on the Brexit vote and she won’t kick it into the long grass, but she will do it when she considers she can secure the best deal for Britain.”

Asked about whether negotiations could be concluded within two years, the spokesman replied: "We would not speculate on that."

Mr Johnson's remarks echoed comments from the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who said Theresa May had told him Article 50 would be triggered in January or February - a claim also denied by the Government. 

Number 10 has already been forced to clarify its position on the issue of free movement of people, with Brexit Secretary David Davis claiming earlier this month that it would be "improbable" the UK could remain in the single market without tighter controls on immigration.

Downing Street described Mr Davis' comments as "his view" rather than a statement of government policy. 

Mrs May also recently distanced herself from remarks from the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who claimed British businesses were too "fat and lazy".