UK warned that post-Brexit trade negotiations 'still years away'
Full negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union will only begin after March 2019, it has been claimed.
Brussels officials have warned that following the agreement struck by the Prime Minister yesterday, Britain and the EU will now negotiate the terms of a two-year post-Brexit transition period.
However, full-blown trade talks may not begin until after Britain quits the bloc.
Negotiators have until October 2018 to find broad agreement on transition and trade before the full discussions can begin, after the UK has left.
The other EU member states, as well as the European Parliament, will then have around six months to ratify any deal before Britain quits.
But talks over a future trade deal will require “more clarity” from Mrs May and her Cabinet on their vision for the post-Brexit relationship, according to Brussels.
“The UK has not been particularly specific,” one official told the Guardian. “It has been setting out a number of red lines, but what the UK has been saying so far still entails a number of internal contradictions and does not seem entirely realistic to us.”
The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, yesterday reminded Downing Street that negotiations had only taken their first step:
“While being satisfied with today’s agreement, which is obviously the personal success of Prime Minister Theresa May, let us remember that the most difficult challenge is still ahead,” Tusk said. “We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relation is much harder.
“Since the Brexit referendum, a year and a half has passed. So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task. And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”