Theresa May says Brexit talks will be done by March 2019, but there may be some transitional arrangements

Hayley Kirton
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Theresa May has stuck to her guns on her Brexit timetable (Source: Getty)

The Prime Minister has today been firm that she fully intends to polish off Brexit talks by March 2019, although there might be an implementation period that extends beyond the two year timetable.

Speaking in front of the Liaison Committee, a parliamentary group formed of the chairs of the other committees, Theresa May made it clear it was her intention to stay within the two year timetable set out for the EU leaving process and stick to her March 2017 deadline for triggering Article 50.

She added she felt the full two years might not even be needed to finish the negotiations and would "cover not just the process of withdrawal but also the future relationship".

"I fully expect us to be able to operate in the timetable set out in the treaty," May said and later added: "We are not seeking to extend the Article 50 procedure beyond two years."

Earlier this month, Michel Barnier, who will front the Brexit talks for the European Commission, warned the UK it would have just 18 months from serving its Article 50 notice to complete a deal.

May today said she agreed the deal could be wrapped up in as little as 18 months, adding she intended to carry out Brexit "as smoothly and as orderly" as possible, "so people can move on to the new relationship that they will have with the UK".

However, the Prime Minister also noted she would not be adverse to a transition period to avoid a so-called "cliff edge" situation and to give people a chance for "adjustment to these new arrangements".

"There may be the there are some practical aspects that require some implementation," she added.

But when quizzed on government contingency planning and what it would do should Brexit not go as smoothly as hoped, May gave a wide-range answer that her team was looking at "all the scenarios" and hit back: "You are asking me to accept that we are going to fail, which I won't accept."

Around a fortnight ago, MPs overwhelming backed a motion to trigger Article 50 by the end of next March, with the added caveat that government shared its Brexit plans with parliament.

Although May reassured the MPs that parliament should have "no concerns about its ability to have an opportunity to comment on all of the matters", she revealed she did not yet have a date for when such plans would be available for review.

"I have been clear that I will not be giving a running commentary," she added.

She also declined to give a yes or no answer on whether she wanted MPs to be granted a vote on the final Brexit deal.

However, the Prime Minister noted she would be giving a speech early on in the new year to discuss government's approach to Brexit.

The referendum was held six months ago on Friday.

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