EU negotiator warns UK has 18 months to Brexit

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The European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit has warned the UK will have 18 months to leave the EU – despite previous assumptions that Article 50 allowed two years for a deal to be reached.

Michel Barnier, a former EU financial services commissioner, made his comments to journalists in Brussels in his first public speech on the issue.

The European council would need time to define its stance at the beginning of the process and at the the end of the two-year period both the UK and the EU27 would need time to approve the deal.

For this reason the two-year exit period specified in Article 50 would actually end up being 18 months.

If Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 at the end of March as she has promised to do the UK would have to reach a Brexit agreement by October 2018.

Switching between French and English, Barnier warned the UK would not be able to cherry-pick the EU’s four freedoms, which includes the free movement of people.

He did not rule out a short transitional deal that would allow businesses on both sides of the agreement to adjust to the new relationship between the UK and the EU.