Brexit talks are a "very difficult process" but they need to move fast to give enough time for officials to negotiate a trade deal, a top-ranking member of the European Commission has told CNBC.
Jyrki Katainen, who is the vice president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, noted that the EU is having trade talks with 21 different jurisdictions and the U.K. would just make another name on that list. Thus, the current discussions on how the U.K. will leave the Union need to be sped up to give enough time to prepare a new trade arrangement.
"It's difficult to estimate anything at this stage but the faster we can settle the financial issues, people's rights issues and border issues - which are rather concrete even though they are very complicated - the faster we can start negotiating our future relationship," he said in an exclusive interview in Brussels where the U.K. and EU negotiating teams are concluding the second round of talks this week.
At the moment negotiators are focused on three key topics: How much the U.K. needs to pay to close its accounts with the EU, the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. and vice-versa, and how the U.K.-Irish border will operate. The calendar suggests that both teams will fix these issues by October. Only after that, they will decide what kind of partnership they want to have in the future.