Triggering Article 50 that paves the way for Britain to leave the European Union will take place before the 2020 general election, a top Tory has said.
But Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin’s suggestion that it could take almost four years before the major step towards ‘Brexit’ could anger Eurosceptics, and comes as Nigel Farage says he will start “making a fuss” if it doesn’t happen within the next six months.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, McLoughlin replied “oh yes” when asked whether the Treaty on the European Union, giving a member state a maximum of two years to withdraw from the bloc, would be invoked before the country goes to the polls in four years.
“We’ve got to see when exactly we leave the European Union and once the Article 50 is triggered there is a maximum of two years.
“It may be sooner than that, it will be part of the negotiations the Prime Minister is currently holding.”
New Prime Minister Theresa May last week met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in the first round of diplomacy where ‘Brexit’ will top their talks. Hollande renewed his contention that the UK leaves “sooner the better”.
Some commentators think the longer the wait the more unlikely ‘Brexit’ will take place - though others warn going back on the referendum would prompt civil unrest.
Although the vote is not legally binding, McLoughlin said quitting the union would go ahead.
“Technically it isn’t, but I’m clear that it is binding on Parliament. The Prime Minister has made it very clear that Brexit means Brexit.”
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said McLoughlin was “flip flopping” over the issue.
“Patrick Mcloughlin has flip flopped back and forth over when we will trigger Article 50.
“This is the biggest decision for our country in modern history and the new Government seem happy to kick it into the long grass. It is high time that this Government was clear with the British people.
“We need to end the uncertainty, end the indecision, and set in stone what is happening with the future of our country and the people who live here.”
Meanwhile, Ukip’s Farage told Sky News’ Murnaghan he would start “making a fuss” if the Government has not triggered Article 50 by the beginning of 2017.
“If the wishes of those people in that referendum are not carried out by the general election of 2020, we could see yet more huge changes in politics,” he said.
‘Brexit’ minister David Davis will be successful in securing a tariff-free deal with EU leaders, Farage said, but added no access to the single market would still be better than the status quo.
“In the end, I hope that David Davis is successful in getting tariff-free trade. I think it’s very possible because of just how much the German car market needs us, the French wine market needs us, and they’ve got elections coming up next year. But I mean if we came to a point down the road where that wasn’t possible… what I would say is no deal is better than the current deal that we’ve got.”