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EU’s top Brexit negotiator says deal with UK must be agreed within 18 months

Michel Barnier during a news conference after a meeting of EU finance ministers at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Jasper Juinen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Michel Barnier during a news conference after a meeting of EU finance ministers at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The top Brexit negotiator for the European Union has slapped an 18-month time limit on deal talks with the United Kingdom.

Speaking in Brussels, Michel Barnier said with all process of ratification needed to be complete by March 2019, terms of the deal would need to be resolved by October 2018.

These timescales make the assumption that The United Kingdom triggers the Article 50 process in March next year, as has previously been suggested by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

"It is clear that the period of actual negotiations will be shorter than two years," Barnier said Tuesday, in his first press conference since taking the role as the EU's broker.

Shortly after the press conference ended a spokesperson for the U.K. Prime Minister said the British government did not want to extend negotiations beyond the two-year limit.


U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May

Talking only four questions, Barnier noted that Brexit is uncharted, legally complex and liable to impact economies "on both sides of the Channel".

Barnier said he didn't understand what a "hard or soft Brexit" meant but suggested the U.K. may base its future EU relationship on the Norwegian model where budget contributions are made in exchange for single market access.

The Brexit negotiator said a transitional agreement to ease the U.K. out of Europe can only come after the U.K. explains what it expects or wants from the final arrangement.

The European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has asked Michel Barnier to visit every member state and the middle-man told reporters this task would be complete by the end of January.

He said the European Union will define the framework of Brexit negotiations and interests of EU members in coming months.

Barnier said he is putting together a 30-strong team that is ready to "keep calm and negotiate".