Britain could miss 2019 deadline of leaving the EU, Theresa May hints

The PM said negotiations could take more than the prescribed two years

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Indy Politics

Britain may miss the previously expected March 2019 deadline for leaving the European Union, the Prime Minister has suggested.

In the House of Commons this morning Theresa May said negotiations could take more than two years – the length of time prescribed under the EU’s Article 50.

The PM has pledged to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, which would have taken Britain out of the EU by March 2019 under treaty provisions. 

Asked at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday about the nature of negotiations, however, Ms May said the process would take “two years and more”.

“There’s going to be lengthy negotiations – over the course of those two years and more Parliament will have its say in a variety of ways, not least in relation to the Great Repeal Bill,” she said in response to a question by pro-EU Tory MP Ken Clarke.

Under Article 50 any country that invokes the provision has two years to negotiate a settlement before it leaves.

However the treaty clause has never acutally been used before and legal and political opinions are split on how exactly secession would take place.

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said after Prime Minister's Questions had concluded that no discussions had been held with other EU states on extended Brexit talks.

The spokesperson however said that it was possible for negotiations to be extended, if EU states unanimously agreed such an extension to take place.

The hint of further delays could incense eurosceptics – some of whom have called for Brexit to take place immediately without using Article 50.

Ms May has said that "Brexit means Brexit" and that she will restrict freedom of movement and then give British businesses the "best possible" access to the single market once this has been secured.

In other Brexit developments at PMQs, Ms May failed to condemn leaks and briefing against the Chancellor Philip Hammond by Brexiteer members of the Cabinet.

Mr Hammond is believed to have argued for a so-called 'soft Brexit' that would leave freedom of movement in place alongside single market access.

This puts the Chancellor at odds with the so-called "three Brexiteers" – Liam Fox, David Davis, and Boris Johnson – who have advocated various forms of 'hard Brexit'.

Ms May will attend her first EU summit later this week.

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