Ministers are reportedly in discussions over a delay in triggering Article 50, the formal process of leaving the European Union, which could see Britain remain a member of the bloc until late 2019.
Theresa May, who is expected by many to trigger the two-year process of leaving the EU in early 2017, could push back the timetable because her new Brexit and international trade departments will not be ready, sources in the City of London have told The Sunday Times. Elections on the continent, including those in France and Germany, could also delay Article 50 of the Libson Treaty being triggered.
“Ministers are now thinking the trigger could be delayed to autumn 2017,” a source who has reportedly had discussions with two senior ministers told the newspaper. “They don’t have the infrastructure for the people they need to hire,” the source added, in reference to the new Whitehall departments being set up from scratch to handle the Brexit negotiations.
“They say they don’t even know the right questions to ask when they finally begin bargaining with Europe,” the source said.
A Downing Street spokesperson 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 to 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 tacking forward the negotiations”.
Peter Bone, the Conservative MP for Wellingborough who campaigned to leave the EU told The Independent, however, that he would have thought Ms May would want to avoid delaying the process.
He said: “I just think it’s speculation. I would have thought that was the last thing the Prime Minister would want because she’ll want Brexit done and dusted a long time before the next general election because she’ll want it to be her election. She won’t want it to be clouded by Brexit… I think people who are pro leaving the EU just want to make sure there is a process in place and we have confidence in David [Davis] and Liam [Fox] and the PM.
6 ways Britain leaving the EU will affect you
6 ways Britain leaving the EU will affect you
1/6 More expensive foreign holidays
The first practical effect of a vote to Leave is that the pound will be worth less abroad, meaning foreign holidays will cost us more
2/6 No immediate change in immigration status
The Prime Minister will have to address other immediate concerns. He is likely to reassure nationals of other EU countries living in the UK that their status is unchanged. That is what the Leave campaign has said, so, even after the Brexit negotiations are complete, those who are already in the UK would be allowed to stay
3/6 Higher inflation
A lower pound means that imports would become more expensive. This is likely to mean the return of inflation – a phenomenon with which many of us are unfamiliar because prices have been stable for so long, rising at no more than about 2 per cent a year. The effect may probably not be particularly noticeable in the first few months. At first price rises would be confined to imported goods – food and clothes being the most obvious – but inflation has a tendency to spread and to gain its own momentum
4/6 Interest rates might rise
The trouble with inflation is that the Bank of England has a legal obligation to keep it as close to 2 per cent a year as possible. If a fall in the pound threatens to push prices up faster than this, the Bank will raise interest rates. This acts against inflation in three ways. First, it makes the pound more attractive, because deposits in pounds will earn higher interest. Second, it reduces demand by putting up the cost of borrowing, and especially by taking larger mortgage payments out of the economy. Third, it makes it more expensive for businesses to borrow to expand output
5/6 Did somebody say recession?
Mr Carney, the Treasury and a range of international economists have warned about this. Many Leave voters appear not to have believed them, or to think that they are exaggerating small, long-term effects. But there is no doubt that the Leave vote is a negative shock to the economy. This is because it changes expectations about the economy’s future performance. Even though Britain is not actually be leaving the EU for at least two years, companies and investors will start to move money out of Britain, or to scale back plans for expansion, because they are less confident about what would happen after 2018
6/6 And we wouldn’t even get our money back
All this will be happening while the Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, is negotiating the terms of our future access to the EU single market. In the meantime, our trade with the EU would be unaffected, except that companies elsewhere in the EU may be less interested in buying from us or selling to us, expecting tariff barriers to go up in two years’ time. Whoever the Chancellor is, he or she may feel the need to bring in a new Budget
“It really doesn’t matter as long as we get it right. The worry from people from my perspective, there are a lot of people who don’t want it to happen, there a lot in the establishment that don’t want it it happen. People like myself will be making sure in Parliament that it does happen. I don’t think we’ll really know much more about this until October.
“My guess is that the last thing the Prime Minister would want is for this to be delayed.”
Ms May previously warned that she would not trigger Article 50 this year and has said she would not formally start the process of leaving the bloc until there was a coherent “UK approach” to negotiations. Once the process is triggered then negotiations must be concluded within a two year period and a request for extending the agreement needs the ratification of the 27 other EU member states.
Referring to the upcoming French and German elections, another source told The Sunday Times: “You can’t negotiate when you don’t know who you’re negotiating with.” Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has also advocated delaying the process until the autumn of 2017.
“I lost the argument and now it's for them to persuade the EU how we can get the best of both worlds, how it's possible to have access to the single market and not have free movement of labour,” Mr Khan told Sky News.
“Maybe waiting for French and German elections to be out of the way gives the new French president or German chancellor more of a chance for latitude for some of the things that the British public say we need.”