Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has insisted the UK should “get on” with the process of leaving the EU, also giving a strong hint the Prime Minister could trigger Article 50 early in the New Year.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson said, “What we want to do is not do it by Christmas but obviously we can’t let the process drag on. If you think about it, you know, there’s obviously Euro elections coming down the track.” Mr Johnson also noted that delaying the triggering of Article 50 could result in confusion as to how the UK will respond to European Parliamentary elections and potentially sending “a fresh batch” of MEPs “to an institution we are after all going to be leaving.”
The Foreign Secretary’s comments are likely to reassure some within the Conservative Party concerned that the Brexit process could be delayed until later in 2017, while also correlating with the comments of EU Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt. Mr Verhofstadt has previously said the EU needs an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal before the next European elections in 2019. However, Mr Johnson’s remarks may again stand at odds with the Prime Minister’s opinions: British diplomats are thought to be telling European businesses that only policy statements from the Cabinet Committee on Brexit (chaired by the PM) should be trusted, regardless of what is said by the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for International Trade (Liam Fox) or the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (David Davis).