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Britain’s ambassador to the EU has said it is “time to get on” with the country’s Brexit negotiations as the prime minister has said she will trigger the Article 50 process on March 29.
Tim Barrow, who was appointed as the UK’s man in Brussels at the start of the year, told MPs that exit talks were of the kind that “nobody has done before” amid speculation the government will struggle to agree its divorce and trade terms in two years.
“Speculation has been based on different sort of negotiations about countries not in convergence; we are creating something different”, Sir Tim told an EU select committee on Monday.
“Our mandate is to get on with it; there is a timetable which everyone has bought into which is two years and that’s what we’ve got to do”.
He added the Article 50 process as laid out in the Lisbon Treaty clearly stated the EU should take account of its “future framework” with Britain with the government insisting it can strike an ambitious free trade agreement within the negotiating window.
Sir Tim today informed Donald Tusk, EU Council president, that the UK’s formal letter of withdrawal would be sent next Wednesday, a step which will provide “welcome clarity” in the process, he said.
At the same hearing, David Jones, the minister for Exiting the EU, said the UK was at a “huge advantage” in negotiating a trade deal as all of its current arrangements were “already in alignment” with the bloc’s standards.
Amid discussions over the size of the divorce bill, which has been estimated at around €60bn, Sir Bill Cash, head of the committee, said it was worth “bearing in mind” that the UK helped restructure Germany’s post-war debts at the London conference in 1953.
“It might be worth tactfully reminding people, not one of my strongest points, that there is a realistic position here that we don’t really owe anything to the EU whether it is legal or political”, said Sir Bill.