European Council president Donald Tusk revealed that Britain’s prime minister Theresa May told him the date of when she is likely to trigger Article 50 and therefore start the two-year negotiation process on how the UK will exit the European Union.
Tusk told reporters at a summit in Bratislava that when he met May in a meeting earlier this month in London, she told him during a talk that she is aiming to trigger Article 50 a lot earlier than many have expected.
“She declared that it was almost impossible to trigger article 50 this year but it’s quite likely that they will be ready, maybe in January, maybe in February, next year,” said Tusk, according to The Guardian.
According to the BBC, he also said “prime minister May was very open and honest with me.”
Prime minister May or her spokesperson has yet to confirm Tusk’s comments to the press. She did though recently say at a G20 summit in China this month that “it would not be right for me or this government to give a running commentary on [Brexit] negotiations.”
Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23. After May took over from her predecessor David Cameron, she has been under enormous pressure to trigger Article 50 from Brexiteers in order to confirm Britain’s EU exit process and therefore negate the huge political uncertainty looming over the nation.
May has signalled several times over the last three months that Article 50 will not be triggered until at least January 2017 but many mused that May would maybe opt to not pull the trigger until a new general election was called or that she may give into gaining parliament approval for a Brexit — something she has said she would not do.
But if Britain’s government does go ahead with a Brexit, former European Commission head Herman van Rompuy says significant EU exit talks are unlikely to begin until the end of next year after Germany’s September elections have been settled.
According to reports, Britain is keen to hold more informal talks on Brexit and trade but Europe is putting up resistance.
The Financial Times reports that Brussels is pushing back against attempts by British officials to sound out potential Brexit terms, while Politico reports that the UK plans to hold trade talks alongside official Brexit negotiations, rather than waiting until Britain has officially left.
However, Tusk suggested to reporters this week that the EU is unlikely to move on the Freedom of Movement issue for the UK. He said: “This is not a game. It is about the rights of ordinary people, of workers in Europe, so I can’t see any possibility of compromising on that very issue.”