British government to publish Brexit plan before triggering Article 50

EU negotiator has suggested that a Brexit deal could be reached by October 2018

British government to publish Brexit plan before triggering Article 50

File photo: PA Image

The British government has said it will publish its Brexit plan before triggering Article 50, the formal process to leave the EU.

The British Labour party had originally tabled a motion which called on Prime Minister Theresa May "to commit to publishing the Government's plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked."

Now Mrs May's government has accepted the motion, which may allow potentially rebellious Conservatives to back it when it is debated on Wednesday. 

A government amendment tabled in Theresa May's name also challenges MPs to "respect the wishes" of voters in the referendum and calls on Article 50 to be invoked by the 31 March 2017.

A Downing Street spokesman said the amendment was a separate issue to the Supreme Court hearing currently underway which will decide if Parliament must approve Brexit before Article 50 is triggered. 

"The Prime Minister has been clear that we will set out our plans in due course," the spokesman said. "That remains the position.

"We won't be showing our negotiating hand until we have to, but we have not suggested we will not set out the position.

"That's what the amendment goes to."

October 2018

Meanwhile, a final deal on Britain's exit from the EU could be reached by October 2018, the European Commission's chief negotiator says.

Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom. Picture by Thierry Monasse AP/Press Association Images

Setting out the European Commission's plans for the first time, Michel Barnier said: "Time will be short. It is clear that the period of actual negotiations will be shorter than two years."

Mr Barnier said that if Britain triggers Article 50 by the end of March - as Theresa May has said she wants to do - an agreement would be needed by October of the following year in order to get it through the European Parliament in time for March 2019.

He said the process would be "legally complicated, politically sensitive and have very important consequences for our people".

On triggering Article 50, he said: "The European Union is ready to receive the notification." 

He added: "It's up to the British to say what relations they want and up to the 27 to define their future relations with Britain."

Mr Barnier warned that the UK would not be able to "cherry-pick" which EU rights and obligations it wishes to keep.

Among the "third countries", the UK could never receive the same benefits as a full member of the EU, he warned.

Mr Barnier added: "Being a member of the European Union comes with rights and benefits. Third countries can never have the same rights and benefits since they are not subject to the same obligations.

"The single market and its four freedoms are indivisible. Cherry-picking is not an option."

He said he was aiming for an "orderly" Brexit, but said it was "too soon" to discuss the details of how it would happen.

"We are entering uncharted waters," the former French foreign minister said.

"The work will be legally complex, politically sensitive and will have important consequences for our economies and for our people, on both sides of the Channel."