‘Brexit could be de­layed to late 2019’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

LON­DON — Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union could be de­layed un­til at least late 2019 be­cause the gov­ern­ment was too “chaotic” to start the two-year process early next year, the Sun­day Times re­ported, cit­ing sources it said were briefed by min­is­ters.

Bri­tain voted to leave the EU on June 23, but views dif­fer over when it should in­voke “Ar­ti­cle 50”, which sets the clock tick­ing on a two-year dead­line to leave the bloc, with some se­nior politi­cians call­ing for a quick de­par­ture.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who cam­paigned for Bri­tain to re­main in the EU and leads a cab­i­net of min­is­ters from ei­ther side of the de­bate, has said she will not trig­ger Brexit talks this year as Bri­tain needs time to pre­pare.

But Bri­tish gov­ern­ment min­is­ters have warned se­nior fig­ures in the City of Lon­don, Lon­don’s fi­nan­cial dis­trict, that Ar­ti­cle 50 was un­likely to be trig­gered early in 2017 be­cause the sit­u­a­tion in gov­ern­ment was “chaotic”, the Sun­day Times re­ported on Sun­day.

“Min­is­ters are now think­ing the [Ar­ti­cle 50] trig­ger could be de­layed un­til au­tumn 2017,” one source, who had spo­ken to two se­nior min­is­ters, told the news­pa­per.

“They don’t have the in­fra­struc­ture for the peo­ple they need to hire. They say they don’t even know the right ques­tions to ask when they fi­nally be­gin bar­gain­ing with Europe.”

Asked about the re­ported de­lay to trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50, a Num­ber 10 spokes­woman said: “The Prime Min­is­ter has been clear that a top pri­or­ity for this gov­ern­ment is to de­liver the de­ci­sion of the Bri­tish peo­ple to leave the EU and make a suc­cess of Brexit.”

“The PM has set out the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion on Ar­ti­cle 50 and has es­tab­lished a new de­part­ment ded­i­cated to tak­ing for­ward the ne­go­ti­a­tions,” she said.

Euro­pean lead­ers have taken a firm line on the speed of Bri­tain’s exit, with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel say­ing that while it was un­der­stand­able that Bri­tain would need a few months to fig­ure out its strat­egy, “no­body wants a long pe­riod of limbo”.

But be­hind the scenes, there has been a grow­ing re­al­i­sa­tion in Europe’s cap­i­tals that the two-year win­dow for ne­go­ti­at­ing Brexit is far too short.

Bri­tain cre­ated two new gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to han­dle Brexit and in­ter­na­tional trade, led by David Davis and Liam Fox, two prom­i­nent “Leave” cam­paign­ers in the ref­er­en­dum.

Davis has re­cruited less than half of the 250 staff he needs for the Brexit de­part­ment, the Sun­day Times said, while Fox has fewer than 100 of the 1 000 trade ne­go­tia­tors he is seek­ing.

Elec­tions in France in May, and Ger­many in Septem­ber, could also push back the tim­ing of Brexit.

Any de­lay to the process, how­ever, is likely to draw crit­i­cism from the pro-leave side of May’s Con­ser­va­tive party, with se­nior mem­bers such as John Red­wood call­ing for a quick de­par­ture from the bloc.

There was an early sign of ten­sion be­tween the proBrexit mem­bers of May’s cab­i­net in a re­port that Fox had clashed with For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son over the re­mit of his new de­part­ment.

Fox said eco­nomic diplo­macy — poli­cies con­cern­ing trade and Bri­tain’s eco­nomic ties — should be trans­ferred to his de­part­ment, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter quoted in the Sun­day Tele­graph. John­son had firmly re­jected the Fox’s de­mands, the news­pa­per said.

The spokes­woman said the gov­ern­ment did not com­ment on leaked doc­u­ments. — Reuters

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