Brexit May Be Delayed Until Late 2019, Sunday Times Says

How U.K.'s Theresa May Will Make Good on Promises
  • New ministry for Brexit still hiring staff, Sunday Times Says
  • Tension rising beween Fox, Johnson over policy, Telegraph Says

Britain’s exit from the European Union could be delayed until late 2019 as new departments set up for the transition may not be ready to start negotiations as early as predicted, the Sunday Times reported.

The Brexit and international trade ministries are still recruiting staff, making it unlikely Britain will invoke Article 50 –- after which the country has two years to leave the bloc -- until late next year, the Sunday Times said, citing people it didn’t name. The potential delay comes amid tensions between International trade secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson over control of certain aspects of policy, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Boris Johnson and Liam Fox
Boris Johnson and Liam Fox
Photographer: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May had been expected to formally start Britain’s exit in early 2017 amid political pressure to deliver on the vote and to salve divisions inflicted on her ruling Conservative Party by the June referendum. With tensions already emerging in her cabinet, and elections in Europe leaving in doubt who will negotiate with the U.K., there is increasing speculation the process faces significant delays.

Staff Recruitment

Brexit minister David Davis has recruited less than half the 250 staff he needs, and Fox currently employs fewer than 100 of the 1,000 trade policy experts he needs, according to the Sunday Times. This makes it unlikely the departments will be ready before French elections in May 2017 and German elections the following September.

Meanwhile, Fox has written to Johnson stating Foreign Office policy should focus on diplomacy and security, saying trade with other countries wouldn’t “flourish” if the responsibility remained with the ministry, the Telegraph reported, citing the letter.

The spat illustrates the differences of opinion existing even within those Conservatives who supported Brexit, and hints at potential disagreements within government ranks over what shape Britain’s relationship with the EU may take. May was copied in on the correspondence, the newspaper said.

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