London, United Kingdom. European Union officials are ready for talks on Britain’s exit from the EU to begin on June 19 and expect confirmation of the date after the British election on June 8, EU officials reported today.
Prime Minister Theresa May formally told the EU in March that Britain was leaving after a referendum last June. A tight two-year countdown to departure on March 30, 2019, has been made slightly tighter by May calling the election last month in a bid to strengthen her hand in the talks. Her ruling Conservative Party is set to win the election with a clear majority.
EU officials refuse to discuss even basic starting issues for the talks with London before the vote, in retaliation for Britain’s refusal to sign off on some EU budget amendments, citing a pre-election freeze on decisions related to the Brexit.
The European Commission will conduct the negotiations with London on behalf of the remaining 27 EU governments. Their ministers will meet on Monday to confirm the mandate they are giving to the Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
Barnier said he would propose to British counterparts that the discussions take place in four-weekly cycles. The first week would be devoted to preparations by the 27 governments and the European Parliament and the second to an exchange of documents with Britain.
If that timetable holds, the EU would be ready to start discussing the shape of its future trade relationship with Britain and a transition period leading to it between December 2017 and spring 2018, Barnier said.